Walter D. (Wally) Wilkerson, Jr., MD
Montgomery County Republican Party
Texas Rangers are one of the most admired and celebrated law enforcement agencies in America. The Rangers are the oldest law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in North America, and presently have less than 200 Rangers in active service. In 1821, Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, brought about 300 families to the Spanish Providence now known as Texas. To protect these settlers from Indian raids in 1823, he hired ten men for this purpose and apparently referred to them as “Rangers”. During the 1836 Texas Revolution and the battle for the Alamo, volunteer Rangers answered the call for reinforcements and valiantly died defending the homeland. They became known as the “Immortal 32”.
Other legendary Texas Rangers most of us have never heard about or remembered are: John Coffee Hays, the Ranger Captain and Indian fighter and Samuel H. Walker, known for creating the deadly “Walker Colt” revolver, both involved in the Mexican War & the American Intervention of 1846-1848. Hays led his Rangers in battles against Mexican Guerillas alongside the U. S. Army earning his reputation for bravery. Walker joined the Hay’s Ranger Company in 1844 along with fourteen other Rangers who once battled eighty Indians while using the Colt Revolver pistol. Some two years later, Samuel Walker improved the design of the revolver and the Walker Colt Revolver was born, and earned its reputation as the “deadliest weapon” of the War. The last known Walker Revolver sold for $800,000 at an auction.
Many of the Rangers fought in the American Civil War, but during the Reconstruction period, the Rangers were briefly replaced by Union controlled police. However, in 1873 they were re-commissioned by the Governor of Texas. Another famous Ranger, Frank Hamer joined up in 1906 and by 1922 he became the senior Ranger in Austin, while building his career on preserving law and order during the Texas oil boom. Then in 1934, he became a special investigator for the State prison system to track down notorious bank robbers and outlaws such as Sam Bass, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It is rumored that Bonnie Clyde once spent the night in Conroe. On May 21, 1934, Hamer learned that Bonnie and Clyde were on their way to meet with family in a small Louisiana town. An ambush was set up along their route. Historians note that the lawmen learned Bonnie and Clyde were on their way by the “notorious roar” of the Ford V-8 engine. They opened fire and killed both, ending a dramatic crime spree.
These legendary lawmen were essential to maintaining law and order in Texas and the Wild West. Unfortunately today, many new age historians and revisionists are trying their best to rewrite history and label the Texas Rangers as the aggressors against “peaceful Indians and Mexican farmers”. Even some are trying to immortalize Bonnie and Clyde. But fortunately, the Former Texas Ranger Foundation has been created and a Ranger Heritage Center is being constructed on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, Texas that will celebrate the history of these courageous Rangers so that it will be preserved.