Frank Hamer

Frank Hamer grew up on the Welch Ranch in San Saba County until he moved with his family to Oxford, Texas. in 1894. He worked in his father's blacksmith shop, though working as a blacksmith didn’t hold Frank’s interest for very long. He was reportedly in more than fifty gunfights during his career. The first was in June of 1900, when he was sixteen. A man he and his brother shared a sharecropping agreement named McSwain reacted badly when Frank refused to kill someone for him. The next year, in 1901, he became a wrangler on the ranch of Barry Ketchum and was working as a cowboy on the Carr Ranch in 1905 when Hamer helped capture a horse thief. The local sheriff was impressed by his skills and recommended him to the Texas Rangers.

Hamer joined the Rangers in April 1906, and with a break from 1908 to 1915 to become City Marshal of Navasota and then a special officer in Harris County, he remained with the rangers until 1932 when Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was elected governor and she wanted the Rangers gone. Every Ranger who did not resign at that point was fired.

In the 1920s Hamer became known for helping bring order to oil boom towns like Mexia and Borger. Texas had become a center for oil and boomtowns came to life all over Texas. The Texas governor declared Marshal Law and sent in the National Guard more than once assisting the Rangers. Crime ran rampant, and the Bankers Association placed a reward of $5000 “for dead bank robbers – not one cent for live ones.” This had resulted in small-time criminals and innocent transients being framed and killed to collect the reward. Fortunately, when Hamer made this practice known to the public, it was ended quickly.

Hamer and child on steps

Photograph of Frank Hamer courtesy of the Portal to Texas History

During the time between retirement from the Texas Rangers and being made special investigator for the Texas prison system, Hamer went back to working with different oil companies and shippers where he served as a presence to prevent strikes and break up mobs.

In 1934, Ret. Captain Hamer became a special investigator for the Texas prison system after the Barrow gang broke into Eastham state prison and freed one of their members. In the process they killed an officer and caused the Texas prison system to join the investigation.

Hamer believed there was a pattern to Barrow’s movements and quickly led a team of both Texas and Louisiana law enforcement officers to isolate the couple from their gang and kill them near Gibsland, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934.

While the killing of Bonnie and Clyde is the most well-known point in his career, it did not end with this famous event in history. In 1948 Governor Coke Stevenson called him back into Ranger duty to observe election returns for the U.S. Senate race in Jim Wells and Duval Counties.

Hamer retired fully in 1949 and lived in Austin until his death in 1955.  Wrangler, Investigator, and Lawman Frank Hamer now rests beside his wife in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, only a few spaces away from his partner, Maney Gault.

Texas Rangers cross and headstone Frank A. Hamer Mar. 17 1884 - July 10 1955 Captain, Texas Rangers