|TxDPS, Texas Ranger Division
|Patch of the TxDPS, Texas Ranger Division.|
|Logo of the TxDPS, Texas Ranger Division.|
|Formed||October 17, 1835|
|Preceding agency||Texas State Police|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||State of Texas, USA|
|Map of TxDPS, Texas Ranger Division's jurisdiction.|
|Size||268,820 square miles|
|Population||24,326,974 (2008 est.)|
|Agency executive||Antonio Leal, Senior Captain|
|Parent agency||Texas Department of Public Safety|
|Official Texas Rangers website|
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
The Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction based in Austin, the capital of Texas, in the United States. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Governor of Texas, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force at the service of both the Republic (1836–45) and the state of Texas.
The Texas Rangers are believed to have been unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The unit was dissolved by the federal authorities during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, but was quickly reformed upon the reinstitution of home government. Since 1935, the organization has been a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety; it fulfills the role of Texas's State Bureau of Investigation. As of 2009, there are 144 commissioned members of the Ranger force.
The unit has been called the oldest state-level law enforcement agency in the United States. The Rangers have taken part in many of the most important events of Texas history and were involved in some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West, such as those of gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, bank robber Sam Bass, and outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Scores of books have been written about the Rangers, from well researched works of nonfiction to pulp novels, making them significant participants in the mythology of the Wild West. During their long history, a distinct Ranger tradition has evolved; their cultural significance to Texians and later Texans is such that they are legally protected against disbandment. There is a museum dedicated to the Texas Rangers in Waco, Texas.
Texas Ranger lore dates the first rangers to 1823, when Stephen F. Austin employed ten men to act as rangers to protect 600 to 700 newly settled families who arrived in Texas following the Mexican War of Independence. While there is some discussion as to when Austin actually employed men as "rangers", Texas Ranger lore dates the anniversary year of their organization to this event. The Texas Rangers were formally constituted in 1835, and in November Robert McAlpin Williamson was chosen to be the first Major of the Texas Rangers. Within two years the Rangers comprised more than 300 men. Following the Texas Revolution and the creation of the Republic of Texas, newly elected president Mirabeau B. Lamar raised a force of 56 Rangers to fight the Cherokee and the Comanche, partly in retaliation for the support they had given the Mexicans at the Cordova Rebellion against the Republic. The size of the Rangers was increased to 150 by Sam Houston, President of the Republic, in 1841. The Rangers continued to participate in skirmishes with Indians through 1846, when the annexation of Texas within the United States and the Mexican–American War in 1846 saw several companies of Rangers were mustered into federal service. They played important roles at various battles, acting as guides and participating in guerrilla warfare, soon establishing a fearsome reputation amongst both Mexicans and Americans. John Jackson Tumlinson Sr., the first alcalde of the Colorado district, is considered by many Texas Ranger historians to be the first Texas Ranger killed in the line of duty. Following the end of the war in 1848 the Rangers were largely disbanded, but the election of Hardin Richard Runnels as governor in 1857 meant that $70,000 was allocated to fund the Rangers under John Salmon "Rip" Ford, a veteran of the Mexican war. The now 100-strong Rangers participated in campaigns against the Comanche and other tribes, whose raids against the settlers and their properties had become common.
The success of a series of campaigns in the 1860s marked a turning point in Rangers' history. The U.S. Army could provide only limited and thinly stretched protection in the enormous territory of Texas. In contrast, the Rangers' effectiveness when dealing with these threats convinced both the people of the state and the political leaders that a well-funded and organized local Ranger force was essential. Such a force could use the deep familiarity with the territory and the proximity with the theater of operations as major advantages in its favor. This option was not pursued in the light of the emerging national political problems, and the Rangers were again dissolved.
Many Rangers enlisted to fight for the Confederacy following the secession of Texas from the United States in 1861 during the American Civil War. Pioneering ethnographer Carl Lumbholz  reports that, lacking other intoxicants, captured Texas Rangers soaked peyote buttons in water and became "intoxicated with the liquid". Ironically, this seems to be the first reported instance of Peyote use by non-native Americans.
In 1870, during the Reconstruction, the Rangers were replaced by the Union-controlled version called the Texas State Police who soon fell into disrepute, and were disbanded only three years later in 1873. The state election of 1873 saw newly elected Governor Richard Coke and the state legislature recommission the Rangers. It was at these times that many of the Rangers' myths were born, such as their success in capturing or killing notorious criminals and desperados (including bank robber Sam Bass and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin) and their decisive role in the defeat of the Comanche, the Kiowa and the Apache peoples. It was also during these years that the Rangers suffered the only defeat in their history when they surrendered at the Salinero Revolt in 1877. Despite the fame of their deeds, the conduct of the Rangers during this period was questionable. In particular, McNelly and his men used ruthless methods that often rivaled the brutality of their opponents, such as taking part in summary executions and confessions induced by torture and intimidation.
The Rangers next saw serious action during the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 against President Porfirio Díaz. The breakdown of law and order on the Mexican side of the Border, coupled with the lack of federal military forces meant that the Rangers were once again called upon to restore and maintain law and order, by any necessary means. However, the situation necessitated the appointment of hundreds of new special Rangers by the state, which neglected to carefully screen aspiring members. The Rangers were responsible for several incidents, ending in the 1918 massacre of the male population (fifteen Mexican men and boys ranging in age from 16 to 72 years) of the tiny community of Porvenir, Texas on the Mexican border in western Presidio County. Before the decade was over, thousands of lives were lost, Texans and Mexicans alike. In January 1919 an investigation by the Texas Legislature found that from 300 to 5,000 people, mostly of Hispanic descent, had been killed by Rangers from 1910 to 1919, and that members of the Rangers had been involved in many acts of brutality and injustice. The Rangers were reformed by a resolution of the Legislature in 1919, which saw the special Ranger groups disbanded and a complaints system instituted.
The Great Depression forced both the federal and state governments to cut down on personnel and funding of their organizations, and the number of commissioned officers was reduced to 45 and the only means of transportation afforded to Rangers were free railroad passes, or using their personal horses. The agency was again damaged after supporting Governor Ross Sterling in his re-election campaign - but after his opponent Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson won, she proceeded to discharge all serving Rangers in 1933.
The ensuing disorganization of law enforcement in the state caused the Legislature to engaged a firm of consultants to reorganize the state security agencies; they recommended merging the Rangers with the Texas Highway Patrol under a new agency called the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which took place in 1935 with an initial budget of $450,000. With minor rearrangements over the years, the 1935 reforms have ruled the Texas Rangers' organization until present day. Hiring new members, which had been largely a political decision, was achieved through a series of examinations and merit evaluations. Promotion relied on seniority and performance in the line of duty. Today, the historical importance and symbolism of the Texas Rangers is such that they are protected by statute from being disbanded.
From its earliest days, the Rangers were surrounded with the mystique of the Old West. And though popular culture's image of the Rangers is typically one of rough living, tough talk and a quick draw, Ranger Captain John "Rip" Ford 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.
As it happened with many Old West myths like Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp, the Rangers' legendary aura was in part a result of the work of sensationalistic writers and the contemporary press, who glorified and embellished their deeds in an idealized manner. The case of the Rangers is, however, unique: it was a collective force that, in exercise of the authority granted by the government, protected Texas against threats considered extremely evil at the time. While some Rangers could be considered criminals wearing badges by a modern observer, many documented tales of bravery and selflessness are also intertwined in the group's history.
Despite the age of the agency, and the many contributions they've made to law enforcement over their entire history, Texas Rangers developed most of their reputation during the days of the Old West. Of the seventy-nine Rangers that have been killed in the line of duty, the most, thirty, were killed during the Old West period of 1858 through 1901. It was also during this period that two of their three most high profile captures or killings took place, the capture of John Wesley Hardin and the killing of Sam Bass, in addition to the capture of Texas gunman Billy Thompson and others.
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One of the most enduring phrases associated with the Rangers today is One Riot, One Ranger. It is somewhat apocryphal in that there was never actually a riot; rather, the phrase was coined by Ranger Captain William "Bill" McDonald, who was sent to Dallas in 1896 to prevent the illegal heavyweight prize fight between Pete Maher and Bob Fitzsimmons that had been organized by Dan Stuart, and patronized by the eccentric "Hanging Judge" Roy Bean. 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!"
Although some measure of truth lies within the tale, it is largely an idealized account written by author Bigelow Paine and loosely based on McDonald's statements, published in Paine's classic book Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger in 1909. In truth, the fight had been so heavily publicized that nearly every Ranger was at hand, including all the captains and their superior, Adjutant General Woodford H. Mabry. Many of them were not really sure whether to stop the fight or to attend it; and in fact, other famous lawmen like Bat Masterson were also present for the occasion. The orders from the governor were clear, however, and the bout was stopped. Stuart then tried to reorganize it in El Paso and later in Langtry, but the Rangers followed and thwarted his attempts. Finally, the fight took place on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near Langtry. The motto appears on the pedestal of the large bronze statue of a Texas Ranger in the Love Field airport, contributed in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Earle Wyatt.
The Texas Rangers have assisted in many high-profile cases throughout the years. Most of them had a short-lived repercussion, while others have received wide coverage by the press and writers alike. However, there are some cases that are deeply entrenched in the Rangers' lore, such as those of outlaw John Wesley Hardin, bank robber Sam Bass, and Bonnie and Clyde.
In 1878, Sam Bass and his gang, who had perpetrated a series of bank and stagecoach robberies beginning in 1877, held up two stagecoaches and four trains within twenty-five miles (40 km) of Dallas. The gang quickly found themselves the object of pursuit across North Texas by a special company of Texas Rangers headed by Captain Junius "June" Peak. Bass was able to elude the Rangers until a member of his party, Jim Murphy, turned informer, cut a deal to save himself, and led the law to the gang. As Bass's band rode south, Murphy wrote to Major John B. Jones, commander of the Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers.
Jones set up an ambush at Round Rock, where the Bass gang had planned to rob the Williamson County Bank. On July 19, 1878, Bass and his gang scouted the area before the actual robbery. They bought some tobacco at a store and were noticed by Williamson County Sheriff Caige Grimes, who approached the group and was shot and killed. A heavy gunfight ensued between the outlaws and the Rangers and local lawmen. A deputy named Moore was mortally wounded, as was Bass. The gang quickly mounted their horses and tried to escape while continuing to fire, and as they galloped away, Bass was shot again in the back by Ranger George Herold. Bass was later found lying helpless in a pasture north of town by the authorities. They took him into custody where he died from his wounds the next day.
One of Texas's deadliest outlaws, John Wesley Hardin was reputed to be the meanest man alive, an accolade he supposedly earned by killing a man for snoring. He committed his first murder at age 15 and admitted to killing more than 40 men over 27 years. In May 1874, Hardin killed Charles Webb, the deputy sheriff of Brown County, for which the outlaw was relentlessly pursued. (Officer Webb had been a former Texas Ranger). John Barclay Armstrong, a Texas Ranger known as "McNelly's Bulldog" since he served with the Special Force as a sergeant and Captain Leander McNelly's right hand, asked for permission to arrest the gunman, which was granted. Pursuing Hardin across Alabama and into Florida, Armstrong caught up with Hardin in Pensacola.
After Armstrong, Colt pistol in hand, boarded a train that Hardin and four companions were on, the outlaw shouted, "Texas, by God!" and drew his own pistol. When it was over, one of his gang members was killed, and his three surviving friends were staring at Armstrong’s pistol. Hardin had been knocked unconscious. Armstrong's hat had been pierced by a bullet, but he was uninjured. Hardin was tried for murder, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Seventeen years later, Hardin was pardoned by Governor Jim Hogg and released from prison on March 16, 1894. He moved to El Paso, where he began practicing law. On August 19, 1896, he was murdered during a poker game at the Acme Saloon over a personal disagreement.
Frank Hamer, the longtime Ranger captain, left the Rangers in 1932. In 1934, at the request of Col. Lee Simmons, head of the Texas prison system, Hamer was asked to use his skills to track down Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, 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 car thefts in Texas alone. Nine law enforcement officers had already died in confrontations with the gang.
After tracking the Barrow gang across nine states, Hamer, in conjunction with officials in Louisiana, learned that Bonnie and Clyde had visited a home in Bienville Parish on May 21, 1934, and that Clyde had designated a rendezvous point in the vicinity with gang member Henry Methvin, in case they were later separated. Methvin, allegedly 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 at Highway 154, between Gibsland and Sailes. Led by former Rangers Hamer and B. M. "Manny" Gault, the posse included Sheriff Henderson Jordan and Deputy Prentiss Oakley of Bienville Parish, Louisiana, and Dallas County Deputies Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton. They were in place by 9:00 that night, waiting all through the next day, but with no sign of Bonnie and Clyde.
Around 9:00 a.m. on May 23, 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. The United States Congress awarded Hamer a special citation for trapping and killing the outlaws.
The duties of the Texas Ranger Division consist of conducting criminal and special investigations; apprehending wanted felons; suppressing major disturbances; the protection of life and property; and rendering assistance to local law enforcement in suppressing crime and violence. The Texas Ranger Division is also responsible for the gathering and dissemination of criminal intelligence pertaining to all facets of organized crime. The Texas Ranger Division joins with all other enforcement agencies in the suppression of the same; Under orders of the Director, suppress all criminal activity in any given area, when it is apparent that the local officials are unwilling or unable to maintain law and order; Also upon the request or order of a judge of a court of record, Texas Rangers may serve as officers of the court and assist in the maintenance of decorum, the protection of life, and the preservation of property during any judicial proceeding; and provide protection for elected officials at public functions and at any other time or place when directed. The Texas Rangers, with the approval of the Director, may conduct investigations of any alleged misconduct on the part of other Department of Public Safety personnel.
The Texas Rangers' internal organization still maintains the basic outlines that were set in 1935. The agency is divided into eight companies: seven District Companies lettered from "A" to "G", and Headquarters Company "H", each commanded by a captain. The number of personnel is set by the Texas Legislature; as of 2009, the Texas Rangers number 134 commissioned officers, 1 forensic artist, 1 fiscal analyst and 24 civilian support personnel. The Legislature has also made a provision for the appointment of 300 Special Rangers for use in emergency situations. The statewide headquarters of the Texas Rangers is located in Austin at the Texas DPS headquarters. Since December 10, 2008, the Chief of the Texas Rangers has been Senior Captain Antonio Leal, with Captain Hank Whitman serving as Assistant Chief.
The District Companies' headquarters are distributed in six geographical locations:
Modern-day Rangers (as well as their predecessors) do not have a prescribed uniform, per se, although the State of Texas does provide guidelines as to appropriate Ranger attire, including a requirement that Rangers wear clothing that is western in nature. Historically, according to pictorial evidence, Rangers wore whatever clothes they could afford or muster, which were usually worn out from heavy use. While Rangers still pay for their clothing today, they receive an initial stipend to offset some of the costs of boots, gunbelts and hats.
To carry out their horseback missions, Rangers adapted tack and personal gear to fit their needs. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the greatest influence was from the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys). Saddles, spurs, ropes and vests used by the Rangers were all fashioned after those of the vaqueros. Most Rangers also preferred to wear broader-brimmed sombreros as opposed to cowboy hats, and they favored square-cut, knee-high boots with a high heel and pointed toes, in a more Spanish style. Both groups carried their guns the same way, with the holsters positioned high around their hips instead of low on the thigh. This placement made it easier to draw and shoot while riding a horse.
The wearing of badges became more common in the late 1800s. Historians have put forth several reasons for the lack of the regular use of a badge; among them, some Rangers felt that 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. Additionally, from a historical viewpoint, a Ranger's pay was so scanty that the money required for such fancy accoutrements was rarely available. Nevertheless, some Rangers did wear badges, and the first of these appeared around 1875. They were locally made and varied considerably from one to another, but they invariably represented a star cut out of a Mexican silver coin (usually a five-peso coin). The design is reminiscent of Texas's Lone Star flag.
Although present-day Rangers wear the familiar "star in a wheel" badge, it was adopted officially only recently. The current design of the Rangers' badge was incorporated 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 working at that time as commissioned officers.
Since the establishment of the Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers Division, 103 officers have died in the line of duty. The following list also contains officers from the Texas Rangers, which was merged into the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The causes of death are as follows:
|Causes of death||Number of deaths|
|Duty related illness||
|Struck by train||
|Struck by vehicle||
The Colorado Mounted Rangers, the oldest law enforcement organization in Colorado, was formed in 1861 in the Colorado Territory, based upon the Texas Ranger model and is still in existence. The Arizona Rangers of 1901–1909 (reconstituted 1957) were based on the Texas Rangers. The analogous agency in the Territory of New Mexico, organized in 1905 was called the New Mexico Mounted Patrol. Across the Mexican border in northern Sonora a similar band of men, the rurales, also known as the Cordada, was commanded by a Russian, Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky who cooperated closely with the Rangers. The California State Rangers were broadly similar and became the California State Police.