A Brief History
The Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement body on the North American Continent, is recognized throughout the world for their accomplishments. When you hear the name “Texas Rangers”, one does not always know for sure if the subject is baseball, a theatrical scene, or law enforcement. Many radio programs, movies, books, and TV shows have all attempted to tell the Ranger story and portray the Ranger’s sense of pride, while others want to seek name identification with the Texas Rangers because the Rangers are synonymous with integrity, courage, and honor.
In a sense, the history of the Texas Rangers is the history of Texas itself. In 1820, Stephen F. Austin, best known as the father of Texas, requested and received permission from the Mexican government for 300 families to enter the territory of Texas. By 1823, the need to create a force in order to provide the pioneers with protection from hostile elements became apparent.
On August 10, 1823, since Texas was then a part of Mexico, Stephen F. Austin sought and obtained additional permission from the Mexican government to employ ten men from a group of volunteers to protect this new Texas frontier. Thus, the history of the Texas Rangers began with duties to "range" over wide areas so as to scout the movements of the renegade Indians. Some accounts say that he Rangers got their name from these ranging activities, but when you look at the original writings of Austin, when he assembled the 10 men he called them Rangers.
In 1835, the Texas Rangers were formally organized with twenty five men to form one Ranger company. The control of the Rangers was placed under the command of the military Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Texas. At that time, the Ranger’s primary concern -- to protect against hostile Indians – remained, but were also structured to protect against outlaws and Mexican bandits. In order to survive, Rangers were forced to learn the Indian ways which included learning, horsemanship equal to the Indians.
The Texas Ranger organization became better established during the period of the Republic of Texas, 1836 to 1846, but the Rangers were not without criticism and underwent movements of abolishment. Rangers were able to survive because the organization was structured in a less expensive manner than that of a regular army. The Rangers did undergo short terms of abolishment but were always called back into service. The early years were that of conflict since Texas and Mexico were in constant dispute over territory. The differences finally lead to a war between Texas and Mexico, when Texas joined the Union and became a member of the United States in 1845.
In 1846, General Zachery Taylor formed troops to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico. The Texas Rangers became a part of Taylor's troops and thus, undertook a new dimension. The Rangers became a part of a complete military structure yet this did not alter their effectiveness. The Rangers gained national prominence for the first time and were considered to be the best troops in the American Army.
For ten years following the end of the war with Mexico, the tasks of protecting the frontier was assumed by United States Army troops. The Rangers saw little service during that period. In 1861 Texas seceded from the Union leaving the total job of protection once again to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers soon occupied the forts abandoned by the United States troops and readjusted so as to provide protection for the residents of Texas during the Civil War years. When the Civil War ended, the Ranger force was disbanded by the United States Military authorities.
A part of Texas ceased to exist, not because of disorganization within the Texas Rangers, but because of the historical period of Union control. The frontier was soon to become unsafe when corrupt politicians gained control of the military forces. In 1874, the Texas Legislature, once again controlled by honest and responsible men, passed a bill creating six Ranger companies and a special force of one Ranger Company. The responsibility of the Rangers became two fold: protection against Indians and restoring law and order in Texas.
FRONTIER BATTALION AND SPECIAL RANGER FORCE
The six Ranger Companies, known as the Frontier Battalion, served primarily in the protection of the settlers from hostile Indians until 1881, when the last Indian battle was fought at the Diablo Mountains in far west regions of Texas. The Special Ranger Force was assigned the task of restoring law and order. The Special Ranger Force existed until 1881, and the Frontier Battalion existed until 1901. In 1901, the Texas Legislature reorganized the Frontier Battalion into the Texas Ranger Force. The Texas Rangers were divided into four companies; each company consisted of twenty men.
With the reorganization of these companies, a new role of responsibility faced the Texas Rangers. The hostile Indian and the routine outlaw became a legend of the past. Texas was becoming modern and with the modern trend the Rangers were faced with new and different problems. Trouble erupted in Mexico and extended into Texas. Many new inventions came into view: the prohibition act, the oilfield boom, and the ever changing criminal techniques were all part of the new problems that faced the Texas Rangers.
THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN RANGER
In 1935, 112 years to the very month that the Texas Rangers were first organized, the Forty-Fourth Texas Legislature created the Department of Public Safety. The Texas Rangers, who had been shifted some years before to the Adjutant General’s Department, was made a part of the Department of Public Safety. As a result of this legislature, the official name of the Texas Rangers was assigned to this long time law enforcement organization. The Texas Rangers were created by the Texas Legislature which set forth organizational limits and the legislature retained the sole power to alter the organizational structure of the Rangers.
The newly created Rangers were formed into six companies, lettered from "A to F", and commanded by a captain. Since 1935, the Rangers have experienced little change as compared to the changes undergone during prior years; only those changes to keep pace with the changing times have been implemented. The basic organizational structure as well as the vested authority of the Rangers has remained relatively unchanged but since 911 the Texas Ranger has begun to undergo change assuming home land security responsibilities. A Texas Ranger was given the same authority of any other peace officer but no special authority except jurisdiction which extends to all parts of Texas. At some point, the Texas Rangers were given special authority to make arrests when the offender was traveling on a railroad, in a motor vehicle, in an airplane, or in a boat but this authority has since been repealed. The Texas Rangers have the same power as a sheriff to execute civil process.
The seventies found the DPS faced with a wave of technological progress and unprecedented growth that has continued into the nineties. The growth was predictable since Texas is a favourite state and has much to offer in the wave of progress.
The modern Ranger has risen to the challenge and has accepted the tradition expectation to be the very best. Rangers are better trained, and educated then ever before in the history. Even though their number has just reached just over the 144 mark, they still fall way short of one Ranger for each of the 254 counties in Texas. Yet, with the reputation of "One riot, one Ranger," the Rangers don’t seem to need a massive group to accomplish their mission and maintain their reputation.
In 1991, the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized as a division in DPS and the Senior Ranger Captain (Chief) reports directly to the Directory of DPS. In 1993, this reorganization recognized the Texas Rangers as a major division in the DPS and was formally adopted into law.
The Texas Ranger Division is a major division within the Texas Department of Public Safety with lead criminal investigative responsibility for the following: major incident crime investigations, unsolved crime/serial crime investigations, public corruption investigations, officer involved shooting investigations, and border security operations. The Texas Ranger Division is comprised of 144 commissioned Rangers, 24 non-commissioned administrative support personnel, 1 budget analyst and 1 forensic artist, totaling 170 full time employees.
Company headquarters are located in eight geographical locations. Houston is the headquarters for Company “A”, Garland is the headquarters for Company “B”, Lubbock is the headquarters for Company “C”, San Antonio is the headquarters for Company “D”, Midland is the headquarters for Company “E”, and Waco is the headquarters for Company “F”, McAllen is the headquarters for Company “G”, and ElPaso is the headquarters for Company “K”. Many think that Waco is the state wide headquarters since the Ranger hall of fame is located in that city. The state wide headquarters, however, is located in Austin, Texas, at the Texas Department of Public Safety Headquarters (DPS), 5805 North Lamar Boulevard.
The modern Texas Ranger dresses in civilian clothes and is recognized by his western hat and western boots. Badges, still made from a Mexican coin, can be seen pinned to a Ranger’s shirt above the left pocket. Their duties vary by assignment, but are generally criminal investigative responsibilities while supporting local law enforcement.
TEXAS RANGER LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION
The need to recognize and preserve the history of the Texas Rangers is an obligation taken on by Texas Ranger Law Enforcement Association (“TRLEA”). Formally organized in 1997, TRLEA operates as a non-profit organization with a volunteer staff. All Texas Rangers and retired Texas Rangers are eligible for ex-officio membership status at no cost to them. Other memberships have been fixed by the Association and are comprised of the general public who support the Texas Rangers.
TRLEA is no longer a new organization, the start up required a painstaking step forward to assemble all of the organizational pieces. But that has been accomplished. The goal of the organization is aimed at protecting and promoting the heritage of the Texas Rangers. With the help of the public, the Texas Rangers of today will be a part of the history of tomorrow. The support of TRLEA will be sought from all those who recognize the need to preserve the history of the Texas Rangers and to recognized the important law enforcement role that the modern day Ranger plays.
TRLEA also provides educational assistance for children of the current and retired Texas Rangers. The assistance provided is only limited by the funds available to the organization and it is the hope of TRLEA that we can expand our support in the coming years
The Board of Directors is a diverse group and share one thing in common, the goal of the organization. Our most famous public person to be a board member who was not a real Texas Ranger, but was a TV star who played a Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris, served on the TRLEA board for several years during the start up period for the organization. In December, 2010, Texas Gov. Rick Perry presented Chuck Norris with a designation as an honorary member of the famed law enforcement group. We would be remiss if Gene Stallings was not mentioned as a former board member and current member of the Advisory Board. Mr. Stallings is person of great recognition as the former coach at Texas A&M, the NFL Cardinals, and more recently at the University of Alabama. Currently, there are three retired Texas Rangers serving on the Board of Directors of the TRLEA, Sr. Captain Maurice C. Cook and Captain David A. Byrnes, and Sr. Captain Earl Pearson. Captain Byrnes serves as the TRLEA President. Retired Texas Ranger, Lt. Robert Madeira, previously served on the Board and currently serves on the TRLEA Advisory Board. Additionally, former Texas Speaker of the House, James E. "Pete" Laney, serves on the TRLEA Board, along with other prominent Texas businessmen.
TRLEA invites you to visit the Texas Department of Public Safety website for a complete overview of the history of the legendary Texas Rangers. Click on the below link for additional history and information on the Texas Rangers. Texas Department of Public Safety website