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Mythic FrontiersRemembering, Forgetting, and Profiting with Cultural Heritage Tourism$
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Daniel R. Maher

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062532

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062532.001.0001

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The Hanging Judge’s Injustices

The Hanging Judge’s Injustices

Chapter:
(p.74) 4 The Hanging Judge’s Injustices
Source:
Mythic Frontiers
Author(s):

Daniel R. Maher

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813062532.003.0004

From 1871 to 1896, the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas was located in Fort Smith and held jurisdiction in Indian Territory. It is widely claimed that “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker presided over seventy-five thousand square miles with two hundred Deputy US Marshals bringing in outlaws, seventy-nine of whom hanged in Fort Smith. These basic talking points are used as hard evidence of the relentless justice of Parker and that the “long arm of the law” reached over a vast domain of lawlessness. This chapter scrutinizes and contextualizes this discourse, arguing that the way the popular tourist narrative is told crafts a cultural memory that silences injustices perpetrated by the court, by deputies, and by Parker himself. In fact, Parker’s jurisdiction in Indian Territory was never as large as often touted. For over two-thirds of his time on the bench, it was less than thirty-five thousand square miles and, for the last third of his tenure, shrunk to twenty-two thousand. Mythic proportions of justice are further sensationalized in Fort Smith by intermixing imagery from the novel and film adaptations of True Grit.

Keywords:   US District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Judge Isaac C. Parker, Indian Territory, Deputy US Marshals, True Grit, cultural memory, Fort Smith

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