Birthday: March 17, 1884
Died At Age: 71
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Francis Augustus Hamer
Born in: Wilson County, Texas
Famous as: Police Officer
Height: 1.91 m
children: Billy Hamer, Frank Hamer Jr.
Died on: July 10, 1955
Cause of Death: Stroke
U.S. State: Texas
Francis “Frank” Augustus Hamer was a Texas Ranger who garnered immense fame for leading the posse that hunted down and killed the criminal duo, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. At the height of his career, he was regarded as “the archetypal Texas Ranger”. In 1922, he helmed several operations against the Ku Klux Klan and reportedly saved 15 people from being lynched. He was born in Texas and helped his father at his smithy while growing up. Later, he worked as a wrangler on a local ranch and became a law enforcement official in 1905 after catching a horse thief. At the local sheriff’s recommendation, he joined the Texas Ranger the following year. While Hamer served as a Ranger on and off throughout his adult life, he often left the agency to work on other jobs, including some in other branches of law enforcement. By the time he accepted the job of tracking down the Barrow gang in 1934, he had worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades. Their hunt lasted about three months before Barrow and Parker were killed in May. During the 1930s, Hamer worked on behalf of various oil companies and shippers. In his long and illustrious career, he was believed to have killed somewhere between 53 and 70 people.
Childhood & Early Life
Francis Hamer was born on March 17, 1884, in Wilson County, Texas, USA. He was one of the five sons of Franklin Augustus Hamer and Lou Emma Hamer. Three of his brothers also became Texas Rangers.
His father was a blacksmith and Hamer worked with him while growing up. He was also employed as a wrangler on Barry Ketchum’s horse ranch.
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Career & Later Life
Francis Hamer became involved in law enforcement in 1905 while he was employed as a cowboy on Carr Ranch in West Texas. He was instrumental in the arrest of a horse thief.
Impressed by his tracking skills, the local sheriff suggested him to join the Rangers. In April 1906, Hamer did just that, and for the next two years, he served under Captain J. H. Rogers in the Company C that patrolled the border in south Texas.
Hamer left the Rangers in 1908 to assume the duties of the City Marshal in Navasota, Texas. Three years later, he was made a special investigator in Harris County. In 1914, he became a deputy sheriff in Kimble County and served as the department's livestock theft investigator.
When Hamer returned to work for the Rangers in 1915, he was assigned the duty of patrolling the south Texas border from the Big Bend to Brownsville. The Rangers had to deal with several types of criminals in the area, including arms smugglers, bootleggers, and bandits. In 1921, following his transfer to Headquarters Company in Austin, Hamer was made the Senior Ranger Captain.
In 1918, State Representative José Tomás Canales was helming an investigation into the alleged abuse of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley by several Rangers. Hamer approached Canales and physically threatened him. Although Canales informed the governor about the incident, no action was taken against Hamer.
As the in-charge of the Texas Rangers’ fight against the Ku Klux Klan in 1922, Hamer reportedly saved 15 people from being lynched. He attempted to protect a black rape suspect from a mob of 6,000 in 1930 in Sherman, Texas, but they burned down the courthouse with the detainee still inside.
He exposed the Texas Bankers’ Association’s “murder machine” in 1928. Four years later, when Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was elected as the state governor, Hamer resigned from the Rangers, refusing to serve under a woman.
In the 1930s, he was employed by various oil companies and shippers as a strike breaker. At the behest of Governor Coke Stevenson, he briefly re-joined the Rangers in 1948 to help inspect an election fraud in Jim Wells and Duval County.
Hunting Bonnie & Clyde
In February 1934, Lee Simmons, the General Manager of the Texas Prison System, assigned the task of hunting down gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to Francis Hamer.
The infamous outlaws had murdered over a dozen law enforcement officers and civilians all over the country. On May 23, 1934, Hamer and his posse gunned down Bonnie and Clyde on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
Francis Hamer is one of the 31 inductees to the ‘Texas Ranger Hall of Fame’.
Family & Personal Life
Francis Hamer exchanged wedding vows with Gladys (née Johnson) Sims in 1917. She was previously married to Ed Sims of Snyder, Texas. She and her brother had faced charges for Sims’s murder in 1916.
Hamer, Gladys and several other members of their family were purchasing gasoline on October 1, 1917, when they ran into Gus McMeans of Odessa, Sims’s brother-in-law. A pistol fight ensued and McMeans, who was a former Texas Ranger and sheriff of Ector County, was killed, while Hamer was wounded.
Hamer and Gladys had two sons together; Frank Jr. (1918-2006) and Billy (1921-1945).
After retiring from law enforcement in 1949, he relocated to Austin where he spent the rest of his days. He passed away from a stroke on July 10, 1955, at the age of 71.