Texas Ranger Division

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For the Major League Baseball team based in Arlington, Texas, see Texas Rangers (baseball).
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Texas Ranger badge, circa 1910 - 1920

The Texas Ranger Division, more commonly known as the Texas Rangers, is the oldest law enforcement agency in North America with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, kept the peace during riots, protected the Texas governor, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a quasimilitary force. The Rangers currently fill the role of Texas' State Bureau of Investigation.



By 1823, the Mexican War of Independence having subsided, some 600 to 700 families had settled in Texas — mainly colonists from other parts of the United States. But the area had no regular army to protect its citizenry, so Stephen F. Austin began to organize groups of people to shoulder the task. These informal groups eventually came to be known as the "Rangers," because their duties required them to "range" over the countryside.

In 1835, when Austin returned to Texas after his imprisonment in Mexico City, he helped organize a temporary "Permanent Council" to govern the Rangers. On October 17, 1835, the council approved a resolution creating a corps of Texas Rangers totaling some 60 men, which was later endorsed by Texas lawmakers. By 1837, the Rangers' numbers had grown to more than 300, and news of their exploits had begun to reach beyond Texas' borders.

During Texas' fight for independence from Mexico, the Rangers served as scouts and couriers. After independence was gained and the land became the Republic of Texas, the Texas Rangers saw little duty under President Sam Houston. When Mirabeau B. Lamar became President in 1838, he rejected Houston's frontier policies of friendship with the Indians. He engaged the Rangers in war against the Indians, and succeeded in weakening their power. Throughout the years of the Republic, the Texas Rangers protected the frontier against invasion from Mexico and attacks from Indians.

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Ranger William Callicot, 1875. As in this photograph, many Rangers did not wear badges, or wore home-cast ones. There was also no prescribed uniform; Rangers wore what they pleased. Callicot is wearing a cross-draw holster, typical of many Rangers of the period.

After Texas seceded from the United States during the Civil War, many Rangers enlisted wholesale to fight for the Confederacy, such as Terry's Texas Rangers. During reconstruction, the Rangers were designated as state police. Charged with enforcing unpopular new laws that came with rejoining the United States, the Rangers fell into disrepute. During this period, the Rangers were essentially a hybrid military and police unit — when fighting Indians or Mexicans, its members behaved much like troops, but when hunting down an outlaw or thief he functioned as a detective and policeman.

As Texas' frontiers became more civilized, the quasimilitary nature of the Rangers slowly shifted to an exclusively law enforcement focus. In 1901 the Ranger Service was reorganized under a new law that established Rangers as law enforcement officers. One hundred years after the establishment of the Texas Rangers, in 1935 the Texas legislature established the Texas Department of Public Safety. At that time, the Texas Rangers became one of three units of the Texas DPS.

In Arizona the general plan of the Texas Rangers was followed in organizing the Arizona Rangers, likewise in New Mexico with the New Mexico Mounted Police.

Rangers' mythos and high-profile busts

From its earliest days, the Rangers were surrounded with the mystique of the Old West. Mexicans at the border, who often tangled with the Rangers, called them "Los Diablos Tejanos" -- the Texas Devils. And though popular culture's image of the Rangers is typically one of rough living, tough talk and a quick draw, Ranger Captain John S. "Rip" Ford, who was a Ranger in the mid 1800's, described the men who served him thus:

A large proportion...were unmarried. A few of them drank intoxicating liquors. Still, it was a company of sober and brave men. They knew their duty and they did it. While in a town they made no braggadocio demonstration. They did not gallop through the streets, shoot, and yell. They had a specie of moral discipline which developed moral courage. They did right because it was right.

One of the most enduring phrases associated with the Rangers today is "One Ranger, One Riot." It is somewhat apocryphal in that there was never actually a riot — rather, the phrase was coined by Ranger Bill McDonald, who in the early 1900s was sent to Dallas to prevent an illegal prize fight. According to the story, McDonald's train was met by the mayor, who asked the single Ranger where the other lawmen were. McDonald is said to have replied: "Hell! Ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!"

McDonald's personal motto, "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'," has evolved in the Rangers' creed.

The Texas Rangers have assisted in many high-profile cases, but there are two collars that are entrenched in the Rangers' lore: that of outlaw John Wesley Hardin and the gunman Clyde Barrow and his moll Bonnie Parker.

In May 1874, Hardin killed Charles Webb, the deputy sheriff of Brown County, for which the outlaw was relentlessly pursued. John Barclay Armstrong, a Texas Ranger known as "McNelly's Bulldog," asked for permission to arrest the gunman, which was granted. Pursuing Hardin across Alabama and into Florida, Armstrong caught up with Hardin and four members of his gang on board a train in Pensacola. After the dust cleared from their melee, Hardin had been knocked unconscious, one of his gang members killed and the rest arrested.

Frank A. Hamer, a long-time Ranger, had left the Rangers in 1932. In 1934, at the request of the head of the Texas prison system, Hamer was asked to use his skills to track down Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde), whose Barrow gang had engineered a successful breakout of associates imprisoned at Huntsville. Prisoner (and Barrow friend) Joe Palmer had killed a guard while escaping, and the Barrow gang was responsible for many murders, robberies, and auto thefts in Texas alone, while thwarting law enforcement with embarrassing consistency.

After tracking the Barrow gang across nine states, Hamer, in conjunction with officials in Louisiana, had learned that Bonnie and Clyde had visited a home in Bienville Parish on May 21 1934, and that Clyde had designated a rendezvous point near there with gang member Henry Methvin, in case they were later separated. Methvin, apparently cooperating with law enforcement, made sure that he was separated from them that evening in Shreveport, and the posse set up an ambush along the route to the rendezvous — Highway 154, between Gibsland and Sailes. Led by former Rangers Hamer and Manny Gault, the posse now included two Louisiana lawmen in addition to the four Texans, for a total of six. They were in place by 21:00, waiting all through the next day, but with no sign of Bonnie and Clyde.

Around 09:10 on May 23 1934, the posse, concealed in the bushes and almost ready to concede defeat, heard Clyde's stolen Ford V-8 approaching. When he stopped to speak with Henry Methvin's father — planted there with his truck that morning to distract Clyde and force him into the lane closest to the posse — the lawmen opened fire, killing Bonnie and Clyde while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. It is not clear what legal authority there was to kill Bonnie Parker, who was not known to have killed anyone, but Hamer made it clear that he had intended to kill her. He had a reputation for not being overly solicitous with regard to law details. Hamer and others from the posse kept for themselves some of the stolen guns from Bonnie and Clyde's vehicle, and the United States Congress awarded him a special citation for trapping and killing the outlaws.

Rangers' badges and uniforms

Modern-day Rangers (as well as their predecessors) do not have a prescribed uniform; rather, they wear what they please. Historically, according to pictorial evidence, many Rangers preferred to wear broader-brimmed sombreros as opposed to cowboy hats, and preferred square-cut, knee-high boots with a high heel and pointed toes, in a more Spanish style. Many wore their handguns in cross-draw holsters, which made it easier to draw while riding a horse.

Though present-day Rangers wear the familiar "star in a wheel" badge, it was only recently adopted. The current design of the Rangers' badge was adopted in 1962, when Ranger Hardy L. Purvis and his mother donated enough Mexican five-peso coins to the DPS to provide badges for all 62 Rangers who were then working as commissioned officers. The design has stayed largely the same since then.

Wearing badges did not become common until the last 20 years of the 19th century. Historians have put forth several reasons for the lack of regular use of a badge — some Rangers felt a shiny badge was a tempting target. Other historians have speculated that there was no real need to show a badge to a hostile Indian or outlaw who no doubt knew he was in for a fight. Additionally, historically, Rangers' pay was so scanty that there was likely no money for such fancy accoutrements.

Still, some Rangers did wear badges. The first "star in a wheel" badges appeared in the late 1800s; they were made by cutting a star out of a Mexican silver coin (usually a five peso coin). The star design is reminiscent of Texas' Lone Star flag; using a Mexican peso was probably a dig at Texas' southern neighbor, with whom a bloody battle had recently been fought.

Present day

The TV series Walker, Texas Ranger, created in 1993 and starring martial arts practitioner and instructor Chuck Norris as Cordell Walker, has drawn much attention to this Texas law enforcement body.

Other television series dealing with the Texas Rangers include Tales of the Texas Rangers (19551959), The Texas Rangers (1981), and (in background) The Lone Ranger (19331957).


Template:NoteBarrow, Blanche Caldwell; John Neal Phillips (Ed.) (2004). My Life With Bonnie & Clyde. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806136251.

Template:NoteButler, Steven (2003). In Search of Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana ( Accessed June 17 2005.

Template:NoteKnight, James R.; Davis, Jonathan (2003). Bonnie and Clyde: A Twenty-First-Century Update. Eakin Press. ISBN 1571687947.

Template:NotePhillips, John Neal (2004). Bonnie & Clyde's Revenge on Eastham ( American History Magazine. Accessed June 18 2005.

Template:NoteSublett, Jesse. Lone on the Range: Texas Lawmen of Lore ( Texas Monthly

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