Wednesday, February 14, 2018

“Ma” Ferguson and the Texas Rangers

Most of us from Texas have read about the origination of the Texas Rangers and the rough years they had with lack of state funding and low pay. But, it wasn’t until I was researching for my latest time travel, Birdie’s Nest, that I learned about the political problems the Rangers faced.

At the beginning of the 20th century, lawyers became a major threat to the Rangers. They challenged the legality of Ranger arrests by quoting the 1874 law that allowed only supervisors to make arrests of which there were only four in the state. Law on the Frontier faded and the Frontier Battalion ceased to exist when a new law went to affect. The new Ranger Force dropped to four companies of 20 men each.

In 1905, the Rangers still had their Wild West era reputation, but they were gradually evolving into detectives and solved cases with modern crime fighting techniques. They still dealt with trouble along the border and after Spindle Top, kept peace in oil Boom Towns.

In 1927 Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, Democratic candidate, was elected the first woman Governor of Texas. Her husband, James Ferguson, served as Governor from 1915 to 1917 but during his second term he was impeached, convicted and removed from office to never hold office in Texas again.

His wife decided to run in his place promising to follow the advise of her husband. “A common campaign slogan was, ‘Me for Ma, and I Ain’t Got a Durned Thing Against Pa.’” During her first term, Ma averaged over 100 pardons a month. There were accusations of bribes and kickbacks, but attempts to impeach failed.

“Ma’s” second term was less controversial but rumors abounded that state highway contracts went to those companies that advertised in the Fergusons’ newspaper. A House committee found no wrongdoing. Ma was instrumental in establishing the University of Houston as a four-year institution. Though both she and her husband were teetotalers; she aligned herself with the “wets” in the war on prohibition. She took a firm stand against the Ku Klux Klan and pushed for sales tax and corporate income tax.

During her two terms, she granted almost four thousand pardons, many were those convicted of violating prohibition laws. Rumors circulated that pardons were available in exchange for cash payments to the governor’s husband. In 1936 the Texas Board of Paroles was invented to take over the power.

When “Ma” was re-elected, in protest over political corruption, 40 Rangers quit the force; the remaining Rangers were fired. Political appointments replaced them. In 1934, after an investigation of corruption, a panel recommended the formation of the Texas Department of Public Safety to be headed by an Independent Public Safety Commission. The newly elected Governor Allred revoked the commission of all Rangers appointed by the Ferguson administration.

In 1935, the Department of Public Safety begins operation. Tom Hickman is commissioned Senior Ranger. He later serves as a member of the Public Safety Commission.

Former Rangers Frank Hammer and Manny Gault are commissioned to end the crime spree of outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

Pictured is the Posse of Six, the officers who ended the life of the two outlaws. Manny Gault is standing on the right and Frank Hamer is kneeling on the left. The duo, who had killed 14 law-enforcement officers, were shown no mercy when ambushed by the six officers. 

In 1939, despite the neutrality of the US, Captain Frank Hammer and 49 retired Rangers offered their services to the King of England to protect their shores against Nazi invasion. The King thanked them for their offer. The US State Department was not amused.

During WWII, US Army Intelligence Division Officers train with the Texas Rangers in Austin at the DPS Headquarters.


Texas Ranger History: Timeline - Order Out of Chaos (See The Official Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas Website.) 

Happy Reading and Writing, folks...oh and let's not forget researching our next project.



  1. Interesting post, Linda. The rangers have an excellent reputation now.

    1. Yes they do, and most of them had excellent reputations even back then. I think "Ma" was after revenge because she couldn't control them.

  2. The history of the Rangers is amazing and they still are a group unto themselves. No other state has anything like them. They aren't at all like State police, Texas has State police. Nor are the like the sheriff's department. For someone from another state, it almost doesn't make sense. I hear there's an awesome museum dedicated just to their history and maintaining the history of the Rangers.

    Loved this little snippet of Ma Ferguson and the Rangers. So glad they are back. Thanks for showcasing them, Linda.

    1. The Texas Ranger Museum here in Waco is awesome. If you're ever on your way through Waco it's right on I-35. Try to spend at least 1/2 a day, longer if you can.

  3. Interesting on Ma. I've heard of some women in oregon's history who didn't follow the concept of what all today think women were like back them. Also proves not just men can be corrupted, like some seem to want to think also today.

    1. So true, Rain. Don't you think that some of it had to do with the time period? A lot of changes were going on then.

  4. I had no idea the Texas Rangers went through such a political beating like this. I thought they evolved into the modern detectives and law officers they are today. In the wild west of Texas I think it took unusual tactics to protect innocent people from lawbreakers in those days.

    I felt a bit conflicted about the Fergusons. On one side they seemed like a couple involved in dirty money and politics, but I have to say Prohibition was a ridiculous law that only led to increased criminal activity. I can understand why Miriam Ferguson would pardon nonviolent prisoners who were convicted of alcohol related crimes.

    This article was certainly one that provokes thought.
    I'm sorry I got here so late, Linda.

    1. Hi Sarah, I'm with you, they did do some good things but some bad also. I think it was her trying to govern how the rangers operated that was the clincher. They are an entity of their own.


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