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Rangers Reevaluated

The Texas Rangers are idolized. "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "The Lone Ranger" are some of our favorite fictional characters. Most of the old history books sing their praises. One of the many stories has a single Ranger arriving in a Texas town to quell a riot. "One riot, one Ranger," he's said to have explained. The slogan is at the base of the idealized two-gun statue on display in the middle of the airport at Dallas' Love Field.

But lately, history books have been emphasizing a different side of the legend. For example: The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920, by Charles H. Harris III. He credits the Rangers, along with vigilantes, with killing an estimated 300 Hispanics without benefit of judge and jury. The stories get worse.

Columnist Mercedes Olivera in the Dallas paper talked about a new book by Benjamin Johnson of SMU: Revolution in Texas. She says the book, "…contains witness accounts of mass lynchings of prisoners and innocent Mexicans and Tejanos, as Texans of Mexican heritage were called. As many as 5,000 may have been slain." The book documents atrocities and "disappearances" of Mexican Americans. At one point, the famous Ranger, Frank Hamer, threatens and stalks a member of the Texas Legislature who wants to investigate Ranger crimes. The actual record of the Rangers in the period 1915-20 in the Valley was documented by the Legislature, but they hid the results for more than 50 years!

Frank Hamer comes up again as a union buster in Gilbert Mers' book about Gulf Coast organizing in the 1930s: Working the Waterfront. Mers relates a number of incidents wherein Rangers used scab-herding, kidnapping, and tommy-gun threats to keep working people from winning their rights.

The Texas Rangers of today may be law-abiding, but the legendary name they carry does not stand up well to the historical facts as now being presented.