Virgil Walter Earp (1843 – 1905) was the Deputy U.S. Marshal for Cochise County and Tombstone City Marshal when he led his brothers Morgan and Wyatt along with Doc Holliday in a confrontation with outlaw Cowboys at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. They killed three Cowboys, but two months later, friends of the slain outlaws retaliated, ambushing Virgil. They hit him in the back with three shotgun rounds, shattering his left arm and leaving him permanently maimed. His brother Morgan Earp was assassinated in March 1882 and Virgil left Tombstone for Colton, California, to live with his parents and recuperate.
Virgil served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and held a variety of other jobs throughout his life, though he primarily worked in law enforcement. His younger brother Wyatt, who spent most of his life as a gambler, became better known as a lawman because of writer Stuart N. Lake's fictionalized 1931 biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal and later portrayals of him in movies and fiction as Old West's "toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day."
By Dean Hanley
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