The Texas Rangers: A Select Annotated Bibliography
Compiled and Annotated by
Christina Stopka, Deputy Director/Archivist
Rebekkah Lohr, Former Curatorial Assistant
Since the 1840s, hundreds of histories, biographies, autobiographies and works of fiction have been written about the Texas Rangers. The following selected bibliography is recommended as a starting point for people interested in in-depth information on the history and legends of the Texas Rangers. It is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction, the reality from the legend. Serious students of the Texas Rangers need to be detectives – reading a wide range of books and articles, looking for corroborating evidence of accounts, and bearing in mind the biases and methodologies of the authors.
Readers seeking even more information are urged to use the bibliographies found these works and to consult primary and secondary source materials such as unpublished manuscripts, memoirs, newspaper files, and archive and photograph collections at the Texas State Archives in Austin, the Center for American History in Austin and the Armstrong Texas Ranger Research Center at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco.
Some of these items are out of print but should be available through your local public or academic library. Books still in print may be available through our Museum Store (1-877-750-8631 toll free US and Canada 9am to 4pm CT every day).
Alexander, Bob and Donaly E. Brice. Texas Rangers: lives, legend, and legacy. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2017.
A very readable, well-researched comprehensive one volume history on the Texas Rangers. One of the few books that covers the modern Rangers of the late 20th and early 21st century
Cox, Mike. Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling. Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press, 1997.
A collection of interesting and often amusing stories about the Rangers not usually found in books on Ranger history. Mike Cox is currently the Chief Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Ford, John Salmon. Rip Ford’s Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.
Edited by Stephen B. Oates. Ford’s account of his life in Texas and important events in the state’s history. He served as a Ranger in the 1840s and 1850s, continued in military service through the Civil War, and also held political office, in addition to being a doctor, lawyer, and surveyor.
Hardin, Stephen. The Texas Rangers. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1991.
This volume is part of Osprey’s Military Elite Series written for juveniles. It presents a concise history of the Rangers up to the 1990s. It is heavily illustrated with both photographs and drawings. This is a good beginning book for both children and adults.
Harris, Charles H., III and Louis R. Sadler. The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The bloodiest Decade, 1910 – 1920. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004.
A well-researched and unbiased examination of the instability along the Texas-Mexico border during the period of the Mexican Revolution. It is one of the first studies to extensively use archives from the Mexican Government and declassified FBI and other Federal records on the Mexican Revolution and the Plan of San Diego. Although lacking in in-depth analyses and interpretation, the book does a good job of attempting to verify or debunk the many legends regarding the role of the Texas Rangers along the border in the years 1910 – 1920. I so doing it both corrects and adds to what is known of the era.
Ivey, Darren. The Ranger ideal: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2017.
The first of three planned volumes providing short biographical sketches of the Rangers who have been inducted into the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas.
Knowles, Thomas W. They Rode for the Lone Star: The Saga of the Texas Rangers. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1999.
Fully illustrated history of the Texas Rangers from the birth of Texas to the Civil War. Many of the illustrations and photographs used in this book have never been published before.
Moore, Stephen L. Savage Frontier Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press, 2002 – 2010.
A four volume is a comprehensive treatment of the Rangers from 1835 to 1845. In addition to being a good history of these years, Moore also includes numerous rosters that could be of interest to family historians looking for that elusive Ranger relative.
Proctor, Ben. Just one riot: episodes of Texas Rangers in the 20th century. Austin: Eakin Press, 1991.
This work covers some of the more famous incidents of Ranger history in the 20th century that illustrate the adage of “one riot, one Ranger.” Starting with Bill McDonald’s handling of the Brownsville riot in 1906, the book conclude with the “Huntsville Siege” of 1974.
Smith, David Paul. Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas Rangers and Rebels. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.
This book analyzes the defense of the Texas Frontier against Indian raiders and army deserters by the varied groups established during the turbulent years of the Civil War. The author makes a good job of distinguishing between those men on the frontier in the hired by the State to do ranging duty and those who were stationed there as soldiers of the Confederate States Army.
Utley, Robert M. Lone Star Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Utley, Robert M. Lone Star Lawmen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
A two volume comprehensive history of the Rangers up to the end of the 1990s. Well written and well-researched, this is a more academic treatment of the subject matter than the books by Alexander and Brice and Wilkins. When published, it was looked upon as the new standard history of the Rangers, replacing Walter Prescott Webb’s tome.
Webb, Walter Prescott. The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.
First published in 1935, this well-known history of the Rangers covers the first years of the force up to 1935 when the Rangers became a part of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Webb spent many years writing this book and even rode with the Rangers, experiences which he includes in the book. This work is not as readable as some of Webb’s other histories and tends to look at Ranger history through rose-colored glasses.
Wilkins, Frederick. Defending the borders: the Texas Rangers 1848-1861. Austin: State House Press, 2001.
This book by Wilkins covers the years from the end of the Mexican War to the beginning of the American Civil War. With this work, Wilkins helps to clarify an often confusing period in Ranger history. With the publication of this work, Wilkins finished a four volume set that give an in-depth treatment of the nineteenth Ranger.
Wilkins, Frederick. The Highly Irregular Irregulars: Texas Rangers on the Mexican War. Austin: Eakin Press, 1990.
This book covers the history of the Rangers during the Mexican War, a time when the Rangers were effective and respected fighters, although often undisciplined and “highly irregular.”
Wilkins, Frederick. The Law Comes to Texas: The Texas Rangers 1870-1901. Austin: State House Press, 1999.
This book covers the Frontier Battalion era and the important transition of the Rangers from fighting Indians to chasing outlaws. The book includes accounts of famous outlaws Sam Bass and John Wesley Hardin and their captures by the Rangers.
Wilkins, Frederick. The Legend Begins: The Texas Rangers, 1823-1845. Austin: State House Press, 1996.
This work covers in details the formative years of the Texas Rangers. In addition to details on battles, Wilkins also gives good information on the weapons and accoutrements of the early Rangers. A very reader friendly history book.
Selection Biographies of Notable Rangers
Alexander, Bob. Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten: enforcing law on the Texas frontier. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2011.
Biography of a Aten highlighting not only his service as a Texas Ranger, but also as sheriff of two Texas counties.
Alexander, Bob. Six-shooters and shifting sands: the wild west life of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2015.
Readable and well-researched biography of a Ranger captain who paid the ultimate price for his law enforcement service, dying in the line of duty.
Alexander, Bob. Whiskey River Ranger: the old west life of Baz Outlaw. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2016.
Outlaw, sometimes described as fearless, served as a Texas Ranger and a Deputy U. S. Marshal. This biography looks as his career and fall from grace as he battled alcoholism.
Boessenecker, John. Texas Ranger: the epic life of Frank Hamer, the man who killed Bonnie and Clyde. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016.
Long overdue in-depth look at the life of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer.
Gillett, James B. Six Years with the Texas Rangers, 1875 to 1881. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
Edited by M. M. Quaife, Gillett’s account of his years of service with the Rangers during the early years of the Frontier Battalion. He served in Company D under Capt. Dan W. Roberts and participated in a number of famous incidents, including being an eyewitness to the killing of outlaw Sam Bass.
Greer, James Kimmins. Colonel Jack Hays: Texas Frontier Leader and California Builder. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1952.
John Coffee Hays, one of the most famous of the early Rangers, served during the 1830s and 1840s. He was a distinguished leader during the Mexican War in which he led the Ranger companies. After the war, he headed to California where he helped to found the city Oakland and served as Surveyor General for the state.
Jenkins, John H. and H. Gordon Frost. “I’m Frank Hamer” The Life of a Texas Peace Officer. Austin: State House Press, 1993.
The story of the famous Ranger, Frank Hamer, who tracked down Bonnie and Clyde. Hamer, known as a gunfighter, served on and off as a Ranger throughout the early 1900s, in addition to other law enforcement duties. The book includes a detailed account of the lives and deaths of the Bonnie and Clyde.
Malsch, Brownson. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
Biography of Captain M. T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, the famed Ranger who joined the force in 1920. Gonzaullas played a pivotal role in the modernization of Texas law enforcement by setting up the state’s first crime lab and was a model example of a modern Ranger captain.
Miller, Rick. Texas Ranger John B. Jones. Denton: TX: University of North Texas Press, 2011.
Biography of the man who led the Frontier Battalion in its formative years.
Paine, Albert Bigelow. Captain Bill McDonald, Texas Ranger. Austin: State House Press, 1986.
Biography of Capt. William J. McDonald who served as captain of Company B during the 1890s and early 1900s. He also served in other areas of law enforcement including sheriff and U.S. Marshal.
Parsons, Chuck. Captain John R. Hughes: Lone Star Ranger. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2011.
Parsons, Chuck and Marianne E. Hall Little. Captain L. H. McNelly – Texas Ranger – The Life and Times of a Fighting Man. Austin: State House Press, 2001.
A good biography of this often controversial figure of Texas Ranger history.
Roberts, Capt. Dan W. Rangers and Sovereignty. Austin: State House Press, 1987.
Capt. Roberts’ account of Ranger life in the 1870s and 1880s. He served as captain of Company D. The book also includes a book written by Roberts’ wife who recounts her life in the Ranger camp.
Spellman, Paul N. Captain John H. Rogers, Texas Ranger. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2003.
A well-written and readable biography of one of the “four great” Ranger captains, Rogers began serving in the Rangers in the late nineteenth century and made the transition into the Rangers of the twentieth century.
Sterling, William Warren. Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
Sterling was a Ranger in the early 1900s and rose through the ranks to become the adjutant general of Texas in the 1930s. This book chronicles his life and experiences as a Ranger as well as presenting short biographical sketches of some of the Rangers Sterling admired.
Weiss, Harold J., Jr. Yours to command: the life and legend of Ranger Captain Bill McDonald. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2009.
A well-researched biography of Capt. McDonald who is known as one of the “four great” Ranger captains.
Elliott, Glenn and Robert Nieman. Glenn Elliott: A Ranger’s Ranger. Self Published, 1999.
Elliott, Glenn and Robert Nieman. Glenn Elliott: Still A Ranger’s Ranger. Self Published, 2003.
In the 1980s and 1990s several biographies and autobiographies of “modern” Rangers have been published. Some of the men covered in these books include:
- G. “Butch” Albers, served 1961-1974
- J. “Jay” Banks, served 1947-1960
- Glenn Elliott, served 1961-1987 (2 volumes)
- Edgar Gooding, served 1948-1983
- Joaquin Jackson, served 1957-1993
- Jim Peters, served 1968-1987
- Lewis Rigler, served 1947-1977
- John M. Wood, served 1949-1978
*Updated February 27, 2018