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FRANK HAMER- Navasota City Marshal 1908-1911

For a short, fun music video about Frank Hamer and his battles with the governors Ferguson and Bonnie and Clyde, click below...

And my two part digimentary: quite educational

Part I: 

Part II:  Bonnie & Clyde etc.

Or ... You can READ ALL ABOUT IT!

When I began to research my sculpture of Marshal Frank Hamer, I soon began to familiarize myself with his guns, clothes, and the various Texas Ranger badges he might have worn. It took months to find the information. In fact it found me.

Through the generous help of new found friends, I was able to look upon pictures of his essential tools of his trade...

Much of it was pictured in auction catalogs, where his possessions fetched top prices.
Perhaps his first Texas Ranger badge, circa 1913.
It was Frank Hamer Jr. who personally authenticated these artifacts.
Hamer's brass badge up until around 1917.
Frank Hamer also served as a United States Prohibition Agent. And he was really good at it.
Captain Hamer's Ranger badge from around 1930.

It was 1913 when Hamer returned to Navasota to serve for a brief stint under his former Deputy, and fellow Texas Ranger, M. E. Bailey, when a local attorney, Conlaw Spann presented this Colt 45 revolver to him. He loved the gun, and named it "Old Lucky." He is said to have carried it with him during his whole career.
Frank Hamer's holster, wallet badge and Old Lucky.
The one thing I never found, and needed the most, was his City Marshal's badge...

It had to happen.. the most popular subject in this blog is this incredible man... whom I heard about first- hand from my father... and had the pleasure of sculpting a monument of him... Here is some of what I have learned about him...

The City of Navasota has plans to erect a bronze monument of Frank Hamer

Standing 6' 3", Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was the reality that Western actor John Wayne could only pretend to be.

Everyone has heard of John Wayne... a man who acted brave and dangerous. We have heard of Pancho Villa, a man who brought terror and distruction. We have heard of Wyatt Earp, who broke the law repeatedly to kill his enemies, and was prosecuted for it. But strangely, we Americans have rarely edified men who truly deserved our praise and admiration. We have made famous the beautiful, the controversial and the scandalous, gave fame to those who desired it, and usually overlooked the real heroes of our generation.

History is full of great and worthy men and women who never became famous. Texas history is especially blessed with many notable characters who never captured the eye of the mythmakers of Hollywood, who have picked our heroes. Frank Hamer is one of the best examples of larger than life Texas heroes who are known well in small informed circles, in his case enthusiasts of Texas Ranger history, but virtually unknown to the average citizen. After you have read this, perhaps that miscarriage of fame may begin to change.

Everyone has their own idea about who should be famous and why; Soldiers for winning battles, politicians for winning elections, athletes for winning competitions. We like winners in our history. We like pathfinders, innovators and those who left a mark on their own generation, and perhaps still challenge our own. We like those who were the best in their fields, record-setters and the firsts of human accomplishments. We like our history to offer up attractive, successful, standard setters who still amaze us. Frank Hamer was all of these.

Frank Hamer was named by historian and western author Walter Prescott Webb as "…one of the three most fearless men in Western history." If you have not heard of him, you probably have never studied the history of law-enforcement in Texas, or the most respected of Texas Rangers, the man who stopped the murderous crime spree of the infamous “Bonnie and Clyde.” Frank Hamer was all of these too. In one of life’s ironies and absurdities, several movies were made about them, always minimizing their hunter and slayer, and making romantic heroes of them. One movie even made Frank Hamer out to be a blundering fool. So let’s get the story around Frank Hamer straight, and right a little bit of history if we can. And I will do it as briefly as I can, as I know most people do not like history and have little patience for it… Unless it is a warped and sexy version with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in it.

Born in 1884, Frank Hamer grew up in the western half of Texas, in the 1890’s, where the Indian Wars were still remembered and cowboy culture was the predominant lifestyle and Mexican banditos were still a daily threat. The West had been “won,” but had not been tamed. Many men in Texas still wore a sidearm, and used it whenever it seemed necessary. All of the stereotypes of the “Old” West were still very much in activity, and men who were the sons of the pioneers, the cattle drivers and the outlaws were still trying to walk in their father’s footsteps.

Frank Hamer was engaged in his first kill-or-be-killed shootout with a corrupt and angry boss when just sixteen years old. He suffered multiple gunshots and was almost killed. When he recovered from his wounds, he returned to his former employer and finished the exchange, killing his first badman. This was the unwritten “code of the West,” where men settled deadly differences with their six-shooters and often faced little if any, legal consequences.

If Frank Hamer had been anything less than an authentic Western alpha-male, he would never have seen his seventeenth birthday. And he was not through with danger. When twenty years old, he tracked down and arrested some horse rustlers and took them to jail. Later he tracked and captured another horse thief for the local Sheriff, who began to see potential in him, and contacted the Texas Rangers. The Rangers saw in him the mettle necessary for taming the West.

He was hired as a Ranger when just twenty-two years old. Enlisted as a Private in Company C and based in Del Rio, he was soon chasing Mexican bandits and impressing his superiors with his mental and physical ability. During this first assignment he showed extreme bravery and shooting skill during a shoot-out with a desperate killer, who had commandeered a home and would not be taken alive. In a hail of gunfire, Private Hamer fearlessly positioned himself near the window where the outlaw’s shots were originating. One of his lever action Winchester bullets had entered the crazed gunman’s left jaw and ended up in his heart. The legend had begun.

Frank left the Texas Rangers to be Navasota City Marshal in 1908

In 1908 when the Navasota City Council approached the Governor of Texas for assistance in quelling the violent and lawless forces in their town, the Rangers looked no farther than Frank Hamer. Although the incorrigible town of Navasota had been unable to keep lawmen very long, because they would always be intimidated or bought off, Hamer came and conquered. Blues legend-to-be Mance Lipscomb, just 12 years old, was hired to be his buggy driver.

He drove the young lawman around Navasota proudly, and remembered the new Marshal to be fair and brave and a terror to outlaws with his feet, which he used to kick them all the way to jail. His “feet were always loaded,” and Marshal Hamer was known to put down his guns and whip any defiant punks who challenged him, and would often use vicious kick boxing techniques to subdue his foolish challengers.

He avoided the use of firearms, and for the first time, absolutely forbade sidearms on the streets. Marshal Hamer thwarted train robbers, shot robbers and even contentious dogs, and shut down the gunplay that had ruled the streets. He was feared and respected and in the end, loved by many who saw the town transformed into a decent place to live. By 1911, Navasota had been tamed, and like the Old West, became a kinder and gentler version of its former self. But Texas was big and there was still great work to do.

He went to work in Houston for the Mayor as a special agent, where he tracked down and captured a cop-killer called “Mississippi Red.” He captured an escaped convict and outran a drunken sideshow entertainer billed as the “Wild Man of Borneo” and disarmed and arrested him. He busted up a burglary ring. He even arrested a fellow policeman who beat a man unnecessarily. And then, caught up in reckless accusations by a Houston Press reporter, Special Agent Hamer lost his cool and smacked the culprit. Soon he became a political liability to the Mayor, who quietly appreciated his resignation.

Frank served again temporarily in Navasota, under his old deputy, now City Marshal M. E. Bailey, and then went back where he belonged… to west Texas. By 1915 he was back in Company C, this time defending the Texas border country against a poorly organized invasion of sophisticated banditos executing an insurgency known as the “The Plan of San Diego.” On the verge of WWI, the Germans were aiding and abetting these Mexicans in their attempt to reclaim the American Southwest. Towns and ranches were raided and innocent travelers murdered. Many manhunts and shootouts and even some wartime style martial law was used to protect Americans and their property. One battle led by Sargent Frank Hamer at Candelia, Mexico ended the dispute, when dozens of the banditos were killed in a bloody firefight.

This is where those sensitive to Hispanics might question Hamer’s methods. But history is never so neatly understood, or our heroes so predictable. Soon The Carranza regime of Mexico had proven it would not be allied with Germany, and even welcomed help in fighting its revolution led by Pancho Villa’s “Villistas.” The Mexican Government pled with American authorities to stop the flow of arms across the border, which only equipped the revolutionaries. American law forbid this anyway, but many gun runners continued to sell arms to the Mexicans. The Texas Rangers were told by “higher ups” to act as if they were policing this smuggling nuisance, but in reality to ignore it. Many Rangers obeyed their orders, but Frank Hamer continued to enforce the law. Since Captain Hamer could not be overtly stopped, those interested in helping the revolution arranged to have all the Rangers relocated except one. Frank Hamer alone was left to enforce the laws he was sworn to uphold. And that he did.

Left to his own devices to patrol hundreds of miles of border, and therefore quite vulnerable, Hamer turned the tables on International relations and law enforcement. He crossed the border and joined forces with the Mexican police, who were more than happy to be allied with the legendary Ranger. Soon he led a small army of Mexican lawmen, who made his goals safer and more attainable. Hamer led a successful war against American gun runners from the other side of the Rio Grande, and enjoyed reciprocal assistance from Mexican authorities from then on. Frank Hamer was not ever against anything but lawbreakers, of any race or nationality.

Their corrupt schemes frustrated at every turn, authorities in Austin had Ranger Hamer yanked from his cooperative with the Mexican officials and assigned to the Hill Country to harass cattle rustlers for Texas cattlemen. That was just fine with him, as the border was an immense, wild badland, where law enforcement was like stomping around an acre of ants. Rustling rustlers would be like eating ice cream.

Ranger Hamer, pictured above in black hat and tie, was famous along the Rio Grande as a lawman that got the job done, with or without help. Sometimes the Mexicans were more helpful than the Americans.

By 1918, World War I was winding down, and a new enemy had risen on the horizon; Prohibition of alcoholic beverages... and its enforcement. Many law enforcement officers walked away rather than be forced to arrest their friends, family and neighbors. But Frank Hamer probably figured that anybody that knew how to bootleg whiskey, and was willing to play the game of crime was probably bad company anyway. The formidible Ranger was recruited to help with State prohibition efforts. He was reassigned to border duty, where he excelled at catching Mexican smugglers who were bringing caravans of tequila and Mexican moonshine into west Texas.

Frank Hamer was photographed for a magazine article in 1920 during a joint exercise on the Texas- Mexican border between Texas Rangers and Mexican police to halt whiskey smugglers during the days of Prohibition.

In 1921, Captain Hamer organized a fateful rendezvous with a notorious robber and killer named Rafael Lopez. Lopez had killed five men in Utah before hiding out in Mexico with the Villistas. Then Lopez and his men had robbed a train and killed 19 people in the process. When a man had offered to betray the bandito, Hamer and his men stepped into a devilish assassination scheme. But just in time the legendary Ranger smelled the double cross and moved his men to a safer position. When a hail of gunfire poured into the spot where he had just been standing, he returned the lead and took out one of the worst killers in Western history.

Frank became the star witness in a murder trial in Abilene. The defiant defendant hired a gang of professional killers to kill him and keep him from testifying. As a local Grand Jury watched most of the bloody scene play itself out below their window, he and his family were jumped and he was shot in a couple of places, but managed to forever silence his enemies in the shootout. Wounded seriously, he still had the presence of mind to stop his enraged brother from shooting one of the fleeing assailants in the back. The stunned and thankful Grand Jury no-billed him, and even thanked him for his admirable ethics.

But then something happened to the Ranger service Frank Hamer could not stomach. In 1925 the “Governors Ferguson” returned to power after James Ferguson had been convicted and banned from office. His wife was elected Governor and aggressively renewed their painful dynasty of corruption and nepotism and cronyism and a pervasive lack of professionalism. Ma and Pa Ferguson had a policy of giving anybody they liked a Ranger badge. The Texas Rangers organization became an embarrassment to all law- abiding people. “Ferguson Rangers” were typically local yokels, slovenly and unprofessional, who used their office for personal aggrandizement. Hamer threatened to resign, but cooler heads enticed him to stay for the good of Law and Order. Hamer bounced around trying to find other employment he could feel right about, and finally officially left the Rangers in 1932 out of protest and personal pride, even as his brother Estill was being sworn in to take his place. Even the Fergusons believed that you had to have a Hamer on the Force to have any credibility.

In 1928, Hamer was hired as a bounty hunter in Houston and exposed an insidious murder for hire ring, inadvertently sponsored by Houston banks, where outrageous rewards were being offered to kill bank robbers. No rewards were offered for live ones. Money greedy bounty hunters had found the perfect crime. Vagabonds and loiterers were set up as stooges and then killed, so crooked bounty hunters and even some lawmen could collect large rewards. The Texas Bankers Association had become a law unto itself, and many lawmen just shrugged at these methods. But Frank Hamer took the story to the newspapers, and defied them to take action against him.

My sculpture of Hamer

Ranger Frank Hamer may be the only lawman to have so blatantly challenged equally the worst criminals of the day and the powers that be in Austin, and anyone who broke the law, to his own demise. More than once he turned on his fellow lawmen, or his employers, and he repeatedly ignored the state powers in Austin, as he did his job, often against impossible odds, and consistently challenged lawbreakers of every race or social class, and shed light into the darkness, no matter who was implicated, and no matter the cost to himself.

The cost? After some fifty plus gunfights, Frank Hamer was a bundle of scar tissue. In the process of exchanging gunfire with around 20 men and one woman, in life or death battles, and countless garden variety scrapes, he was injured in the line of duty 23 times. His body was a half-Century collection of bullet and knife wounds and shotgun pellets under the skin. Hamer was forced to resign or was reassigned to keep his job numerous times. This was a big sacrifice for him and his family as they moved around a great deal. There were many inconsequential attempts on his life, which had to take a psychological toll on his family. How do you put a value on such sacrifice? Most people would not have lasted, but surely few would ever have done what he did for such pay. And yet, there are those who say he was cold-blooded, arrogant, even a law unto himself, not very likable, and much worse. So-called historians and latter day pundits judge Hamer by modern, perfect-world, if not down right impractical standards, and dare question his goodness or integrity.

That too is the cost of public service; A naive, thankless and critical citizenry, who could never walk in his boots, would ignore or denigrate his amazing service because it required so much... violence. Yet it was a barbaric and violent society that demanded such a Ranger, such a hero as this... Frank Hamer.

Frank Hamer was the only man who could have walked that walk, and many Texans thanked God that he was out there, chasing, and yes killing those bad guys. Those that challenge him one hundred years later, would be the first to run to him for protection if they were to chance upon the kind of overwhelming evil that ruled this place then.

I have only mentioned a few outstanding cases, but Hamer’s life reads like a super hero. It is obvious to me that tracking down and exterminating Bonnie and Clyde was just a small part of his life. After spending some time with him, Hollywood cowboy actor Tom Mix encouraged him to become a Western hero on film, as he was already the real thing. Ranger Commander Hughes said he may have been one of the bravest men he had ever seen. Other writers have proclaimed him one of the greatest Texas Rangers of all time.

This great lawman was an acquaintance of my father's. He first met him late one night when Captain Frank Hamer carried a bleeding, unconscious relative into my grandmother’s home after he received serious injuries during a Strike riot on the docks in Houston. Hamer had been there to bust up the Strike, and caringly brought one of his helpers home to be doctored. Many historic characters graced my grandparents home, but he was always considered one of the greatest. Later my father interviewed him when working as a writer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Their magazine wanted an interview, but Hamer would not give one. My father, ever outgoing, used his family connection to get the "interview." As usual it was pretty gruff and uninteresting, as one writer later recalled, Hamer was “as talkative as an oyster.” But for my father, who became a published author, it was a personal triumph, and a highlight of his writing career.

I grew up hearing about the big Texas Ranger, who "knocked down rows of men with his huge paws like a bear," who hardly ever used a firearm in the line of duty, but could shoot the eye out of a flying bat at night, if he wanted to. A lawman who never backed down and never lost a fight, and who never showed favoritism. A man who kept to himself, raised a pet javelina, and shot tin cans down the road with deadly precision with his six shooter while driving, for sport. As you can tell, I have only gotten warmed up about Frank Hamer. Even though it would be fitting to sculpt a monument honoring this Texas hero, the fact is, no artist, and perhaps no movie could ever do him justice. But of course, I would still like to try.

Note 3/10/ 13: The sculpture now stands in front of Navasota City hall and can be viewed on my art blog. Click on the link below...


Just 24, Frank Hamer stepped down from the Texas Rangers to serve the City of Navasota as Marshal. He brought a revolutionary new standard of race equality with him.

It was great when a friend showed me the October, 2011 American Rifleman Magazine, to see that Texas Ranger legend Frank Hamer is slowly but surely getting the recognition he deserves. It may be ironic then that a small clique of people here in Navasota still refuse to recognize him. Perhaps now we have a chance to change that.

Since I have begun to meet many tourists who visit Navasota at our blues museum, I have run into at least two writers working on books about this real life hero. Hal Herring is one of them, and he has already published a chapter about Hamer in his book called Famous Firearms of the American West. Currently planning a book on three of the Hamer brothers who served as Rangers, Herring writes that Frank Hamer “was among the most ferocious and dogged lawmen of any age, in any nation.” Like the American Rifleman article, the focus of Herring’s chapter was on the famous lawman’s marksmanship and weaponry, which was second to none. But I’ll bet nobody ever does an article about his feet, even though eye-witnesses insisted he used them much more often than his guns to subdue lawbreakers.

There have been numerous accounts of Frank Hamer’s life, but none offer more intimate and interesting details than those gleaned by Glen Alyn from Mance Lipscomb. In an excruciatingly detailed and faithful biography of the famed Texas bluesman called I Say Me for a Parable, Alyn concentrated a whole chapter around the relationship between young Mance and his idol, the young Marshal who came to clean up the town, whom he remembered as “Charlie Hayman.” Mance was getting along in years and was depending on the memories of his youth, around the turn of the Century, and consistent with the book, he recalled names and dates through a muddy lens. Referring to Hamer and his deputy Bailey, Mance consistently dubbed them “Hayman” and “Bailiff.”

He was quite possibly offering a little protection according to Alyn, from those who might not approve. Mance considered the big Texas Ranger as a close personal friend, and it is possible that he knew that any kind remarks he might have about the Ranger, even in the 70’s, might have put him in a bad light with many racist whites. And Alyn saw firsthand that they were still a formidable reality, in Mance's part of the world.

Mance Lipscomb, the famous Texas Songster who inspired the likes of Bob Dylan and Taj Mahal, started his legend driving the buggy for a great lawman who transformed many deadly Texas towns. All but one, anyway.

Still, the size, temperament and talent that Mance described in detail could be no other than Frank Hamer. Frank Hamer was indeed a Texas Ranger before he came to Navasota in 1908. Appeals from citizens and the Navasota City Council got action from the Governor who sent for the best Ranger available. Although Mance recalled that he was just nine years old, he was more likely around 11, when his mother released him from the cotton fields to drive the buggy for “the baddest man ever been here.”

In this case bad meant good, as Mance told how the Marshal checked on planters to make sure they were not abusing their field hands, and treatment of blacks improved. When one nosey farmer teased Hamer about hiring Mance when he should have been working in the fields, the Marshal was quick to intimidate him into apologizing. Mance quoted the Marshal in his own, somewhat colorful dialect... “He doin' what I want ‘im ta do, and he aint gonna plow til he quit driven roun’ an openin’ these gates fur me.”

Mance remembered how they would stop sometimes and just listen to the cotton pickers as they sang, and sometimes they put on quite a show. Once when a cotton planter came out to see what was going on, Hamer gave him notice… “Landowner, how you treatin’ these fellas?” ( Mance spoke again in his own dialect…)  "An you know all this lynchin'? An all this colored beatin’s? Knockin’ em in the head? You know, I come here to stop all that…"

Mance told Alyn in detail how the Ranger used his feet when a suspect might slow down on the way to the jail… “He’d kick ‘em from here yonda to yo car. He’s a big man enough to do it. Strong enough to do it… When you git tired of him kickin’ you, why, you done got to the jailhouse. He’ll let you rest awhile from here to that car. Turn around an’- he was a man, he could kick you down. But if he hit ya, he knock you down. .. One lick, you goin’ down…”

Mance spoke of these incidents like it was a daily affair, something he had witnessed countless times, and quoting Hamer again as he finally brought a criminal to the jail door, “Well, git in…. I said git in! I done kickt you all the way up here. I don’t wanta kick you in the jail. I want you ta walk in there free.”

“Then he go down the street, whistlin’. Lookin’ for somebody else…”

One can easily see old Mance smilin’ as he declared “…Man, he was the purdiest white man I ever laid eyes on… He had the eyes of a eagle. .. he could shoot a gun better’n inybody ever been in this county…”

Hamer, then only about twenty four years old, had already been in several life or death shoot-outs with dangerous killers, and had busted numerous cattle rustlers. But from Lipscomb's account, he far preferred to use force without using guns. Hamer had already done his share of killing, and avoided it if he could. For two years, he kept the little black boy entranced with his recollections of chasing cattle rustlers and banditos.

As Mance gathered a lifetime of lawman stories, the youngster also got out of hard labor as he drove for Marshal "Hayman," and as he fetched for him and set up his shooting targets and opened gates and generally tormented the jealous white folks for two years. Mance remembered “Charlie Hayman” as a generous boss, who even indulged him. Although many people might make assumptions about Frank Hamer’s attitudes towards race, according to Mance Lipscomb, he was not the typical Texas lawman, in fact its antithesis.

Hamer was born in a west Texas family of German immigrant stock, and Germans had little patience for the racial injustices of the South. But Mance shared another reason as he is quoted in Alyn’s book, quoting the young Ranger…

“Now look. A colored man was the best friend I ever had in my life. Listen, I don’t want ya’ll ta be mistreatin’ these colored folk. Cause I been a Ranger. A colored man pickt me up, while the Carr boys shot me down. Shot my guts out, and left me layin’ there. An a colored man come along, and my guts was hangin’ out. An’ toted me, an rested, and carried me to a hospital,. An’ let 'em wash that sand off my guts, and sewed me up, and I’m livin’ today… I want y’all to be surer than hell respect ‘em.”

Hamer was remembered as an equal opportunity enforcer. Once, according to Mance, a white woman begged for the Marshal to let her husband out of jail so he could sleep in his own bed and Hamer refused, saying he had to stay in jail all night. The woman said the Marshal was mean, and insisted her husband was after all, a white man! And deserved to be treated as such.

Lipscomb must have cherished what the young Marshal said next, for the rest of his life: “Yeah, that’s what’s a madda with this town: White. I’m a white man, but I’m doin’ my job. He kin come out in the mownin’. But he caint git out with no amount of money that you offer me. Cause money don’t buy me. I’m already bought, to take this here position. Now you come down in the mownin’ bout nine O'clock, I might let im out fur nothin’. But he gonna be in there til tomarra.”

Lipscomb gave Marshal Hamer credit for leveling the playing field for blacks. “Boy, he cooled that town down. Po colored folks was scared ta meet white folks on the street… ‘bout bein’ around ‘im, cause they was white and they was niggas, they don’t wanta touch up against no white folks. But them white folks commenced to letting the colored folks git by. Give some room fur them. But wadn no room fur nobody but whites until he come there… Man, not nary another colored man was lyncht after he tuck the job bein’ a Ranger there.”

It is impossible to gauge the impact this friendship had on either person, but it must have given Mance hope and inspiration, and the heart to sing his songs, no matter the fear of reprisal. Marshal Hamer had been the first ray of hope since the White man’s Union had murdered several black elected officials in 1900 and seriously wounded and ran their popular white Sheriff off for good. Soon a cunning underworld started to conspire against the young Marshal, making threats and even trying to assassinate him, as they had done uncooperative lawmen in the past. After three butt-kicking years taming Navasota, Hamer wisely took a new job in Houston, where he eventually wore out his welcome with the corrupt bankers there.

He soon exposed their thinly veiled murder for hire racket, inadvertantly created while trying to shut down Houston bank robbers. Hamer proved that bounty hunters were setting up stooges and killing them to collect the generous rewards.

Regardless of the odds against him, Frank Hamer stood up time and time again for what was right. He was sent as a Ranger all over the state, wherever there was big trouble. Oil boom towns were his specialty, and he made a lasting impression at Mexia, Borger, and other hot spots where organized crime brought in bootleggers and prostitutes and gambling dens. The no-nonsense west Texas cowboy always seemed surprised when certain "special" segments of society demanded special consideration. To Hamer, the law was the law, and anybody, no matter how rich or powerful or white they were, who broke the law, was merely a lawbreaker, and treated as such.

This dangerous objectivity, especially racial objectivity, was later demonstrated when Captain Frank Hamer was serving Texas on the Mexican border. Texas based gun-runners had convinced Austin politicians that illegally selling arms to bandit Pancho Villa was a necessary, if not profitable evil, and soon the Rangers were getting suggestions through the grapevine to put on the correct show, but to leave those helping the Mexican Revolution alone. But Hamer told his men to enforce the law. Next Hamer saw most of the men he had gradually reassigned, to other parts of Texas. He was left almost to himself to police thousands of miles of west Texas trails, which were becoming a network of contraband traffic.

The resourceful Captain Hamer just shrugged it off and crossed the Rio Grande. Soon the legendary Ranger was working in cooperation with the Mexican police, who were more than glad to have his talent and help. Hamer constantly used creative solutions to fight crime, and later this flexibility came in handy in getting Mexican cooperation in foiling "The Plan of San Diego," a Mexician born conspiracy to recapture the American Southwest. In 1920 he was photographed along with his men for a magazine article, once again working with Mexican authorities, this time to curb the bootlegging of Mexican liquor into south Texas.

Over and over, Frank Hamer fought some of the most dangerous and powerful underworld cartels in Texas. If criminals despised him, the corrupt and powerful loathed him. In his controversial career, Hamer was known to challenge governors, bankers, even other policemen, if they were hindering or breaking the law.

Captain Hamer has a Pow Wow with Mexican authorities, who learned to trust him about issues concerning smuggling between the U. S. and Mexico.

But the Sherman riots of 1930 are probably the most telling about Frank Hamer’s race convictions. The County Seat of Grayson County, Sherman was the scene of one of the most outrageous race conflicts in American history. The May, 1930 Literary Digest called it a "wild orgy of venomous hate and frenzied violence..." A black man named George Hughes had been arrested and charged with rape of a white woman. He denied raping her, but had confessed to her assault, over wages owed him, and when the trial required his female victim to be brought into the courthouse on a stretcher, the crowd outside became violent. Soon the word got out, and a huge vigilante mob formed outside of the courthouse. In their minds there was no need for a trial.

As usual, Ranger Captain Frank Hamer was sent into the most dangerous and unpredictable situations. He and three other Rangers discreetly entered a pot of heated tempers that was about to boil over. Advising the Judge to get a change of venue, Hamer and his few men braced themselves to keep the peace. Mance Lipscomb once quipped that he was a true PEACE officer, and most others were just piece officers.

True to his character, Hamer once again found it necessary to stand against the growing tide. Unfortunately, the locals overheard the discussion about changing venue, and decided to act very forcefuly before their prey was snatched beyond their reach. A large mob broke down the double doors in the hallway. Hamer and his Rangers drew their guns down on the crowd as they tried to overtake the courtroom. They were able to bluff the crowd outside, temporarily, at the point of their guns and the use of tear gas.

After the halls were cleared of troublemakers, the court tried to proceed, a fatal mistake, to allow the judge to affix punishment. But the crowd came back like a tsunami, and the jury had to be dismissed, and the Rangers began to use tear gas once again to repel the rioters. When this did not work, and more Shermanites rushed up the stairs, Captain Hamer fired his shotgun, wounding two men, according to his own reports. This seemed to make the vigilantes more afraid of the Rangers, who had been rumoured to be under orders from the Governor not to fire on civiliians. Frank Hamer settled that question.

The beautiful old Grayson County Courthouse was the scene of horrible white wrath towards blacks, in fact, it was the very last scene of its existence...

Hamer and his men took position inside the second story of the courthouse, outnumbered 500 - 1. They had to continuously threaten the mob, and pushed them back again with tear gas. When one leader of the mob announced that he was coming up to get the prisoner, Hamer told him to do so, any time he felt lucky, but that if they came up the stairway one more time, there would be many funerals in Sherman. Still the rioters beat on the doors and climbed through the courthouse windows. The suspect had been locked away, by order of the Judge, in a large steel safe in the County Clerk's office to protect him in case the Rangers were overtaken. When a throng of men once more busted through the doors of the courthouse, the Grayson County Sheriff and his deputies fled, and Hamer and his men fired their guns, once in the air, warning the mob to get back. This was a moment of truth...

But the moment did not last long. Hamer and his men were finally forced to leave their post when Sherman youths threw rocks through the windows and spread gasoline and sent the first floor up in flames. The Shermanites burned their own courthouse down, in retaliation for not having their way. And they finally got what they wanted.

This is one of very few times, perhaps the only case in American history from this era, when white police stood up to, and fought off white people in defense of a black prisoner. Later, the Rangers regrouped, and Captain Hamer phoned the Governor's office. As he tried to place his call, he even heard the phone operator speaking satisfaction that the courthouse had been torched. Meanwhile the charred lifeless body of George Hughes was extricated by cutting torches and dynamite and dragged through the city and hung, post mortem, followed by perhaps 2,000 (some reports said 5000)onlookers. Sherman was one town that would not ever be tamed... except perhaps by its own shame.

The burned out hull of the Grayson County Courthouse after Texas Rangers, led by Frank Hamer, refused to let them have their prisoner.

When, in other similar instances lawmen stepped aside rather than draw the wrath of a Texas lynch mob, Frank Hamer was impartial and steadfastly professional. And yet, this great man, respected by Hollywood western stars, historians and the people he defended, has never been honored by the erection of a statue commemorating his stellar service. If there ever was a man, black or white, that was the vanguard in the last Century for equal justice under the law, and the impartial enforcement of law and order, with authentic first hand sources to prove it, it was our own town Marshal, Frank Hamer, whose story is yet to be told. And it started right here in Navasota.

Frank Hamer, Marvin E. Bailey and R. M. "Duke" Hudson joined Company C of the Texas Rangers about the same time, and were receiving their monthly payroll out in Alpine, in far west Texas in 1906.

Three of these Texas Rangers ended up serving here in Navasota, Texas: Hamer, Bailey and Hudson. Look at those scowls! Photo courtesy of the University of Oklahoma.
Hamer left the Rangers for awhile and answered desperate pleas here for Law and Order and came to Navasota in 1908.

Still "wet behind the ears," Rangers Frank Hamer and Duke Hudson pose with their Winchesters around 1906, when just starting their careers as Texas lawmen. Hamer was Navasota City Marshal, Hudson was later elected to County Sheriff.


Anonymous said...

Very Good.
I was told that I have in my possession his Winchester rifle.

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