This Day in Texas History: Frank Hamer Rejoins the Rangers

This Day in Texas History:

Frank Hamer Rejoins the Rangers
March 29, 1915

On March 29, 1915, Frank Hamer rejoined the rangers at Del Rio and began one of the most eventful periods of his peace officer career.

Frank Hamer
Frank Hamer

HAMER, FRANCIS AUGUSTUS (1884–1955). Francis A. Hamer, Texas Ranger, son of Frank and Lou Emma (Francis) Hamer, was born in Fairview, Texas, on March 17, 1884. Known commonly as Frank or Pancho, he grew up on the Welch Ranch in San Saba County. In 1894 the family moved to Oxford in Llano County, where Hamer worked at his father’s blacksmith shop. In 1901 he and his brother hired out as wranglers on the Pecos County ranch of Barry Ketchum, brother of outlaw Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum (see KETCHUM BOYS). In 1905 Hamer was a cowboy on the Carr Ranch, between Sheffield and Fort Stockton, where, after capturing a horse thief, he was recommended by Sheriff D. S. Barker for a position with the Texas Rangers. On April 21, 1906, Hamer enlisted as a Texas Ranger in Capt. John H. Rogers‘s Company C. Working primarily along the South Texas border, Hamer became known as an expert shot. In 1908 he resigned from the rangers to become marshal of the lawless community of Navasota. Hamer brought order to the area, remaining as marshal until April 21, 1911, when he became a special officer in Harris County. On March 29, 1915, Hamer rejoined the rangers at Del Rio and began one of the most eventful periods of his peace officer career, patrolling the South Texas border from the Big Bend to Brownsville when arms smuggling, bootlegging, and banditry were rampant. The Texas Rangers, including Hamer, received some criticism regarding their use of force during their years patrolling the border area. Most notably, legislator José T. Canales accused Hamer of threatening him in 1918. On May 12, 1917, Hamer married Gladys Johnson who had two daughters from a previous marriage. The couple also had two sons. In 1920 Hamer served as a prohibition officer. He was transferred to Austin in 1921. He rose to the rank of senior captain and made Austin his permanent home.

During the following decade he was instrumental in restoring order in oil boom towns such as Mexia and Gander Slu in 1922 and Borger in 1927, and he participated in numerous fights with lawbreakers. In 1928 Hamer was credited with exposing a banking “reward ring” in which the Texas Bankers’ Association publicly announced a standing reward of $5,000 for any dead bank robber. Hamer charged that some people were framing others and also tracking down small-time hoods just to kill them and collect the money. In 1932 Hamer retired from active duty but retained his commission. On February 1, 1934, Marshall Lee Simmons, head of the prison system, asked Hamer to take the new position of special investigator for the Texas prison system. Hamer was assigned to track down the nationally known outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. After a three-month search, he trapped them near Gibsland, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934, and with the aid of several local policemen shot and killed them. Congress awarded Hamer a special citation for catching the pair. During the late 1930s Hamer worked for various oil companies and shippers as a private agent preventing strikes and breaking up mobs. In 1948 he again was called to duty as a ranger by Governor Coke Stevenson to accompany him and help check the election returns in Jim Wells and Duval County in the controversial United States Senate race. Hamer retired in 1949 and lived in Austin until his death. The lawman had been wounded numerous times and had killed an undetermined number of felons. He died in his sleep on July 10, 1955, and was buried in Austin Memorial park. In 1968 Hamer’s widow and his son Frank, Jr., sued the producers of the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde for their portrayal of Hamer. They charged defamation of character among other things. In 1971 they were awarded a settlement out of court.

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