Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is the official, state-designated historical center that focus entirely on the famed law enforcement agency, the Texas Ranger Division. In operation since its founding in 1823, the Texas Rangers have become known around the world as a paramilitary force (before 1845) and as one of the most respected agencies for investigating crime, controlling riots, and working as detectives. Located off Texas Ranger Trail, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum commemorates this historic law enforcement agency by inspiring appreciation of the Rangers and their symbology with the American West. The museum also displays a myriad of permanent and changing exhibits and displays thousands of artifacts covering the entire history of the Texas Rangers. The Hall of Fame pays tribute and commemorates the service and sacrifices of 30 Texas Rangers who gave their lives in the line of duty or made significant contributions to the service. The Texas Ranger Research Center houses more than 300,000 items, including case files and personal files from Texas Rangers, books on Ranger history, and firearms and other pieces of equipment used by the Rangers. Every year, nearly 3,000 researchers visit the Research Center for information on ancestry, books, television shows, movies, and for other reasons. Since it opened in 1968, over 3 million people have visited the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.
Backstory and Context
History of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum dates back to 1964, when the Texas Department of Public Safety chartered Waco to construct and maintain an official museum focused on the Texas Rangers. The City of Waco then designated 32 acres of land and originally named the museum Fort Fisher, the 1837 Ranger camp from which Waco traces its origins.
By 1968, the museum opened to the public and was drawing substantial crowds. In the beginning, however, the museum only housed a few exhibits in its gallery, named after Colonel Homer Garrison Jr. Over the years, the collection grew from private donors.
By 1971, Texas Legislature asked the Texas Ranger Commemorative Commission to honor the 150th anniversary of the Texas Rangers by erecting an official Hall of Fame. Coinciding with the American Bicentennial in 1976, the Hall of Fame opened and the complex had its name changed to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Texas Ranger Research Center was founded in 1975 due to a generous donation from the Moody Foundation. By 1997 and with 30 years of service, Texas Legislature passed a resolution that designated the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum as the official repository of Ranger memorabilia, artifacts, archives, and any other materials related to the law enforcement division.1
The Museum, Hall of Fame, and Research Center
From the Hall of Fame and the Research Center to the many exhibits displayed, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum provides fun, interactive, and educational materials for all ages.
Within the museum, the Homer Garrison Gallery displays equipment central to the role of the Texas Ranger. Each piece of equipment, from guns to handcuffs to silver stars, features an historical context from the early days to the present. Walking into the Brownfield and Morris Galleries, visitors can explore the entire timeline of the Texas Rangers from the founding in 1823 to recently retired officers.
The Brownfield Gallery also focuses on some of the most important Texas Ranger cases. The exhibits in this gallery include kidnappings, riots, and even the case surrounding the Texarkana Phantom Killer. One of the most famous exhibits, however, is the Bonnie and Clyde collection, which includes the duo’s shotguns that were confiscated from the “Death Car” after the final shoot-out.
The Hall of Fame, on the other hand, pays tribute to 30 Texas Rangers. These include major figures from Stephen F. Austin (called the Father of the Texas Rangers) to Bobby Paul Doherty, who was killed in 1978 during a drug raid in Argyle, Texas.
One of the more famous aspects of the museum is the Research Center, which features over 300,000 archived materials. Especially when it comes to the Texas Rangers in media, much of the researched material comes from this Research Center.
Educational programs at the museum include lesson plans and activities for teachers, camps, programs for scouts, and the Jr. Texas Rangers Program.2