Calvin "Cal" Whitson - the Real Rooster Cogburn
It is believed that the character Rooster Cogburn from True Grit was based somewhat upon the life of Calvin “Cal” Whitson.
Cal Whitson served as a US Deputy Marshal, for the US Marshals Service in Fort Smith, Arkansas, under the rule of Judge Isaac C. Parker (better known as the “Hangin’ Judge”).
Cal Whitson was a pretty rough, tough crusty character, having had his left eye shot out during his service in the Civil War. Cal never wore a patch over his eye as portrayed in the novel/movie(s) "True Grit" but rather always wore his hat down over his left eye to hide the wound.
Author of the 1968 novel “True Grit”, Charles Portis, stated that the unforgettable character Rooster Cogburn was actually a composite of different US Deputy Marshals from Fort Smith, but strong inferred evidence shows otherwise and indicates that the character is closely based upon the life of Calvin “Cal” Whitson – the only one-eyed US Deputy Marshal to serve under Judge Issac C. Parker at Fort Smith during the late 1880’s.
The soon to be released booklet entitled “The Legend of Cal Whitson” (Q1 – 2012) details the life lived by Cal Whitson through the eyes of one of his direct descendants. “The Legend of Cal Whitson” not only tells the story of the life of Cal Whitson but brings out the differences in Cal’s personality and his life compared to the personality and life of Rooster Cogburn as portrayed in the 1968 novel “True Grit” by Charles Portis and the two “True Grit” movies (1969, 2010).
John Wayne won the only Academy Award of his career for playing the aging, violent, drunken, one-eyed US Deputy Marshal and now Jeff Bridges takes his turn at bringing the character to life. These lawmen are depicted riding horseback in Indian Territory, in hopes of capturing outlaws and bringing them back to Fort Smith, along the banks of the Arkansas River, to be brought to justice. “Legend of Cal Whitson” tells part of the story of how the West was won and brings Cal Whitson, the REAL Rooster Cogburn, to life.
Rooster was reborn on December 22, 2010 when the new movie version of “True Grit” was released in theaters across the country. The "Legend of Cal Whitson" will be available for purchase on this web site upon its release in Q1-2012.