WACO, Texas — The legendary Texas Rangers have a history dating back to the earliest days of settlers coming to the state.
The Texas Rangers are often compared to other world-famous law enforcement agencies like the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Located in Waco, on the banks of the Brazos, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is telling the story of the enduring symbol of Texas and the American southwest.
“This is the battle of Plum Creek, and it's a good representation of why the Texas Rangers were founded and started in 1823 when Stephen F. Austin was settling Texas and there was a need for protection," said Christine Rothenbush, marketing and development coordinator for the museum. "And this is a historic battle that took place after a raid on a town by the Comanches.
There was a mythology back in the 1800s I think they're still around today at the, you know, six-foot-tall and always gets his man and just pride and integrity in his work and honesty. And that's still very much true today.”
From the early troubled days of the Republic of Texas to modern-day law enforcement, the Texas Rangers wear the badge with pride.
“Our 1880 ranger badge is one of the earliest badges, and it's the iconic circle star designed that we see everywhere in Texas," said Rothenbush. "And it's really cool to see that and compare it to the modern-day badge and see the similarities, the traditions that they've held on to, but also some of the differences in the modernization.”
One of the more notorious cases was solved by a Texas ranger: outlaws Bonnie and Clyde -- who made a pass through Waco.
“Everybody loves Bonnie and Clyde," said Rothenbush. "They roamed around with their friends, robbing things like a 7-eleven type of store today and just causing all sorts of havoc. There were times where they would pretend to be helpless on the side of the road. Somebody would come to offer them help and then they would just execute them for no reason. In fact, Clyde Barrow was actually held here in McLennan county jail, which is our courthouse.
And we have his pocket watch from when he was in prison. Bonnie helped him escape, but he left behind his watch. When people come here, they like to see the exhibit. Learn about frank Hamer and the Texas Rangers that tracked them down and eventually put an end to their crime spree.”
That’s not the only thing visitors come to see. The pop culture gallery -- also a very popular exhibit.
“It draws a lot of people," said Rothenbush. "I mean, I've seen the lone ranger and I've even seen, you know, the modern Johnny Depp version. And, you know, you got to love each one for their own merits. We have walker, Texas Ranger, so those are the things that people kind of remember and know about the ranger.”
And don’t forget to stop and honor the hall of fame inductees.
“There are 30 Texas Rangers inducted in the hall of fame," said Rothenbush. "They either died in the line of service or they made a significant contribution to the field, really advanced in the ranger service.”
For Waco, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is a popular stop for tourists and locals alike.
“Before COVID, we were reaching 100,000 people a year on-site. In our 50 years of being open, we've surpassed four million visitors," said Rothenbush.