Historic Photos of Texas Lawmen

by Mike Cox, Turner Publishing, Nashville, Tenn., 2009, $39.95.

 Austin-based writer Mike Cox, author of The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821–1900 (2008), now presents a volume full of images of Rangers and other Lone Star State lawmen. Despite the title, readers will also find photos of assorted characters on the wrong side of the law and of places where badge wearers and lawbreakers did their deeds. The book includes nearly 200 images from Cox’s personal collection, the Dallas Public Library Institute of Texan Cultures, the Library of Congress and the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Collections.

Each of the four chapters in the 206- page book includes brief but informative text about Texas law in various eras. As the first chapter covers 1849–79, Cox is forced to use some illustrations (including drawings of famous Rangers Jack Hays and Rip Ford), and he can’t resist showing the Alamo, in one of the earliest known Texas photographs. Chapter Two (1880–1895) opens with a picture of Ranger James B. Gillett, who later wrote Six Years with the Texas Rangers (1921), and includes a shot of 1880s Rangers at ease in front of a saloon in the once-important panhandle town of Tascosa. Also look for (not quite back to back) a familiar image of outlaw John Wesley Hardin in death and a seldom-seen shot of onetime Ranger John Wesley Harris (1834– 1922) with hat in hand. “Contrary to the Hollywood image,” Cox points out in one caption, “most rangers did not crease their hat crown or bend their brims.”

Chapters Three (1900–1919) and Four (1920–1938) cover periods when photos were increasingly popular, and Cox has chosen some good ones, including such classic shots as the “Fort Worth Five” (Wild Bunch) and Bonnie and Clyde clowning around with a deadly sawed-off shotgun. Every picture tells a story here, but Cox’s captions usually add to the visual pleasure. Fittingly, the last picture in the book, dating from 1940, contrasts a stalwart uniformed highway patrolman and his motorcycle with former Ranger Captain John R. Hughes, who sits in coat and tie atop his four-legged mount.


Originally published in the August 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here