In 2004 Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler published a study entitled The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press). The authors, history professors at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, based their work on intensive research in a multitude of archival and public records. They won kudos from scholars of the Texas-Mexico border for their efforts. The volume under review, Texas Ranger Biographies: Those Who Served, 1910-1921, is a companion to their earlier publication. It presents a treasure trove of information on 1,782 men who wore the Ranger badge during a troubled decade, and provides valuable insights into understanding the changing nature, scope, and contributions of an organization often wrapped in myth and misunderstood in terms of purpose and involvement.
The volume includes a foreword, preface, Ranger biographies, several genealogical charts, and a bibliography. In a foreword, Byron A. Johnson, Director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, describes his institution and its programs, particularly the Texas Ranger Research Center (designated an official state repository in 1997). The authors preface the Ranger sketches with a brief overview of the Mexican Revolution and cite its Texas roots and reaction to the border violence. They stress the Rangers' role in the conflict as "the most controversial episode in the organization's history" (xii).
The decade of unrest saw massive enlistments in what was then called the Texas State Ranger Force. Three groups served side-by-side and often were intertwined: Regular Rangers, Special Rangers, and Loyalty Rangers. The Regulars were on the state payroll and assigned to companies. Special Rangers included those hired by private groups for various duties (livestock inspectors, railroad police, oil field security, etc.). Some in this group were "honoraries." The difference between Regular and Special Rangers was often blurred. Loyalty Rangers, authorized by the Hobby Loyalty Act (1918), enjoyed the status of Regular and Special Rangers, but focused their attention on local subversion and acts of disloyalty. Many Rangers had relatives in the organization during these years. One small town in Wilson County, Texas, boasted twenty-two residents who became Rangers. A majority of the force were native Texans, but others came from the South and Midwest. Two had been Arizona Rangers. In 1935 the Rangers became part of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The authors have done an excellent job of collecting and arranging available information on the Texas Rangers who served during these years. Listed alphabetically, the sketches contain personal data, dates of service, classification (Regular, etc.), remarks, and keys (letters, numbers, and combinations of the two) to sources in the bibliography. Deciphering the keys can be a challenge.
Researchers and scholars of Texas Ranger history will applaud the herculean effort [End Page 340] involved in the preparation of this volume, a work that should stimulate fresh research on the subject and quiet many myths that surround the organization. The text is enhanced by some sixty Ranger photographs. By its content and example, the volume quickly will become a major addition to the study of a critical chapter in the history of the Texas-Mexico border.