3 Famous Texas Rangers That Deserve Our Attention

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Tony Maples Photography


We recently published an article series on the history of the Texas Rangers law enforcement. It’s a logical next step then to highlight some of the premiere Texas Rangers that made crime-fighting their career, keeping the Lone Star State safe through their indomitable spirit. Informally created by Stephen F. Austin in the mid-1800s, the Texas Rangers played an integral role in the early beginnings of the Republic of Texas and the many governments that succeeded it. Here are three famous Texas Rangers that deserve our attention.

1. Captain John Coffee Hays

Three Famous Texas Rangers That Deserve Our Attention

Photo: Facebook/TEXAS RISING: Rise of the Texas Rangers; Cowboys, & the Old West

Coming to San Antonio in 1837, John Coffee Hays became one of the more famed Texas Rangers from their earlier days. Within three years of his arrival, he was named a Ranger captain and built his reputation fighting Mexican marauders and Native Americans. One of the latter who ended up riding with Hays and his men named the Ranger captain “brave too much,” explaining that his bravado was often considered too much for many a hostile party.

2. John B. Armstrong

Three Famous Texas Rangers That Deserve Our Attention

Photo: Facebook/The Texas Rangers

Lawless Texans appeared to be the largest issue for the Texas Rangers law enforcement by the second half of the 19th century. The Texas Legislature subsequently created two such forces in 1874 in order to deal with the situation, one of which was called the Frontier Battalion, led by Major John B. Jones and an organization called Special Forces under Capt. Leander McNelly. John Wesley Hardin, one of Texas’ deadliest outlaws, was a preacher’s son presumed to have killed 31 men. Under the direction of Capt. Leander McNelly, Ranger John B. Armstrong captured Hardin in Florida. With his Colt .45 in hand, Armstrong boarded the train that Hardin and four of his companions were on. When the outlaw saw him, he shouted “Texas by God!” and drew his pistol. When it was all said and done, one of Hardin’s friends lay dead, Hardin was knocked out, and the surviving three friends were staring at Armstrong’s gun. They say that a round had pierced Armstrong’s hat in the process, but he remained uninjured.

3. Captain Bill McDonald

Three Famous Texas Rangers That Deserve Our Attention

Photo: Facebook/ReturnToOrder.org

The often referenced “One Riot, One Ranger” is attributed to Captain Bill McDonald in regards to a trip he was sent on to Dallas in order to prevent a scheduled prizefight. When the mayor of the city met him at the train station, it’s rumored he asked McDonald, “Where are the others?” To that McDonald’s supposed response was, “Hell! ain’t I enough? There’s only one prize-fight!” His creed was said to be: “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’.” And these have since evolved into the existing Texas Ranger creed.


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Texas Ranger Hall of Fame