The Luke Short-Jim Courtright Duel occurred in 1887 when Timothy Isaiah “Longhair Jim” Courtright was running the T.I.C. Commercial agency in Fort Worth, Texas, which provided “protection” to gambling dens and saloons in return for a portion of their profits. At the same time, Luke Short, a former friend of Courtright’s, was running the White Elephant Saloon and Jim was trying to get Short to utilize his services. But, the Dodge City gunfighter told Courtright to “go to hell,” he could do any gunslinging that was necessary to take care of his business.
On February 8, 1887, the two quarreled, resulting in one of the most famous gunfights in western history. With Bat Masterson at Short’s side, Courtright and Luke Short dueled in the street in one of the few face-to-face gunfights in the American West. Drawing their pistols at close range, Short fired first, blowing of Courtright’s thumb. Courtright then attempted the “border shift”, a move where a gunfighter switches their gun to an uninjured hand, but he was too slow. Luke Short shot him in the chest, killing him.
Years later, Bat Masterson would publish his own account of the events, in which he stated that it was Jim Courtright, carrying a “brace of pistols”, who challenged Luke Short to a fight:
“No time was wasted in the exchange of words once the men faced each other. Both drew their pistols at the same time, but, as usual, Short’s spoke first and a bullet from a Colt’s 45-caliber pistol went crashing through Courtright’s body. The shock caused him to reel backward; then he got another and still another, and by the time his lifeless form had reached the floor, Luke had succeeded in shooting him five times.”
The gunfight became well known due to the notoriety of both men. Courtright’s funeral was attended by hundreds of Fort Worth residents. Short was arrested for the shooting, but he was never brought to trial, though he was almost lynched after the shootout.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.