Last week former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was shot and killed by rebels in the streets of his hometown of Surt, where he was believed to have been hiding since fleeing Tripoli, a few months ago. Some controversy has arisen over the vigilante killing of Qaddafi, though few people had any sympathy for the repressive dictator. This got us thinking about an episode of vigilante justice in our own history— the shootout at the O.K. Corral, which happened 130 years ago today.
Wyatt Earp was a law enforcement officer and a gambler who did business in several towns in the Wild West. Along with his brothers, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, near the Mexican border, and invested in mining businesses. The Earp brothers soon clashed with a rival gang, a group of outlaw cowboys, lead by Ike Clanton.
The feud between the Earps and Ike Clanton’s gang culminated in a 30-second shootout at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. Three of Clanton’s gang were killed, and many more were wounded. Wyatt Earp was the only man to emerge unharmed. The story of the O.K. Corral has been portrayed in several films over the years, most notably in My Darling Clementine. The 1946 film starred Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp.