Robert A. Crowder

Photograph of Robert A. Crowder

1902 - 1972

Robert Austin "Bob" Crowder was born in Minden, Texas on January 29, 1901. After serving a hitch in the United State Marines, Crowder became a Dallas police patrolman in 1925. When the Texas Highway Department created the Highway Patrol, Crowder became one of the first 50 members of the patrol. He was appointed as a Senior Criminal Investigator in the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Intelligence in May of 1937. In January of 1939, Crowder was appointed to Texas Ranger Company B and stationed in Wichita Falls. In September of 1939 he was transferred to Dallas. He was promoted to Captain of Company C, stationed out of Lubbock, in December of 1947.

In October of 1956 he was promoted to Acting Chief of the Texas Rangers, and the following year to Regional Commander (Major) in charge of the Department of Public Safety’s regional station at Lubbock. In 1960 Crowder requested to be moved back into the ranks of the Rangers. He was made Captain of Company B in Dallas, a position he held until his retirement in 1967. In 1969 he was appointed a member of the State Board of Private Detection, Private Patrolmen and Private Guard Watchmen. He served on this board until his death in 1972.The late Col. Homer Garrison, director of the DPS and chief of the Rangers once observed, “I have heard it said that the Texas Rangers are the Marines of Texas law enforcement. If so, there goes my top Marine,” pointing at Crowder. Bob Crowder believed that a man must prove himself before becoming a Ranger. His definition of a Ranger was: “An officer who is able to handle any situation without definite instructions from his commanding officer or higher authority. This ability must be proven before a man becomes a Ranger.” During his career Crowder was involved in dozens of felony investigations, as well as several often violent labor disputes. In every situation he had a reputation of being a scrupulously neutral lawman. On more than one occasion Crowder also exemplified the Rangers reputation of “one riot, one Ranger.”

Perhaps the most famous incident occurring at the Rusk State Hospital in April 1955. Eighty-one inmates of the Hospital had taken over Wards 6 & 8, attacked three trustees and two attendants, and took the unit physician, the assistant supervisor, and the hospital superintendent hostage. Bob Crowder was dispatched to the scene. After assessing the situation, Crowder agreed to talk to the inmates. He warned them that he was coming in armed since he was unwilling to become their next hostage. During the next twenty minutes Capt. Crowder reasoned with the inmates and assured them that their grievances would get a fair hearing. He then ordered them to release their hostages and surrender their weapons. The inmates followed his orders, bringing a dangerous situation to a peaceful end. Capt. Robert Crowder died of a heart attack on November 26, 1972 in Dallas, Texas.

Suggestions for further reading:

  • Ben Proctor, Just one riot, Austin, 1991
  • Vertical files, Texas Ranger Research Center, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas