WACO — There is probably no more iconic law enforcement agency in American history as the Texas Rangers. In fact, the Texas Ranger Division is even older than the state of Texas itself.
The Rangers were founded by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 to protect the hundreds of new settled families who arrived following the Mexican War of Independence. However, the Rangers weren’t formally constituted until 1935. Today, the Texas Ranger Division acts as a statewide investigative law enforcement agency falling under the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Waco is the home to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. I grew up watching the CBS classic “Walker, Texas Ranger” with my grandmother and honestly, that’s where I learned everything I knew about the Texas Rangers. So, I decided to visit the museum and learn more about the historic law enforcement agency.
The first gallery I walked through highlights the rich history of the weaponry of the Rangers. The room included an overview of the Colt Revolver from 1848-1900. The rest of the exhibit detailed the various revolvers, rifles and shotguns the Texas Rangers have used while
My favorite part of the first gallery was the exhibit on historic Texas Ranger badges. There’s an ID badge from Capt. Fred C. Olson issued in 1952 and a badge that belonged to Walter F. Hale, who enlisted in the Rangers in 1918.
The next gallery highlights the first century of the Rangers, protecting the frontier to chasing down bootleggers during prohibition. There’s even an exhibit on the Rangers’ pursuit of the infamous Barrow Gang of Bonnie and Clyde fame.
My favorite gallery in the museum was the Modern Ranger Exhibit, which focuses on the Rangers’ current role as a statewide investigative agency. Some of the early investigative tools were fascinating, including a wire recorder with wrist watch microphone from 1958 that looks straight out of a “James Bond” film.
Of course, the Texas Ranger Museum wouldn’t be complete without an exhibit dedicated to two of the most recognizable Rangers in pop culture – the Lone Ranger and Sgt. Cordell Walker. The “Walker, Texas Ranger” display even has a script from the 1996-1997 season signed by the entire cast, including star Chuck Norris.
The Lone Ranger takes up much of the space in the pop culture room, including books, toys, games and other memorabilia from “The Lone Ranger” film and television franchise.
The Hall of Fame lobby features photographs of all current Rangers and memorials for fallen Rangers and those who have made great impacts on the service.
The museum will be hosting Military Appreciation Days Memorial Day weekend, Saturday-Monday, offering active duty personnel, retirees and veterans free admission and Family members discounted admission.
On June 8, the museum will transform into the frontier of the late 1800s for Home on the Range Day. The Texas Top Guns reenactment group will be putting on demonstrations of the skills necessary for early Texas Rangers to survive from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Visitors also will have opportunities to meet with active or retired Texas Rangers and learn about their service and heritage on select Saturdays throughout the summer during the museum’s Texas Ranger Talks.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information about the Texas Ranger Museum, ticket prices and more, visit www.texasranger.org.