When Frank Hamer led the ambush that resulted in the death of the notorious gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934, he probably did not foresee how closely his name would become linked to theirs. The 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde” solidified the connection, even though the film portrayed the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame member in an unfavorable light.
Hamer became a national hero for his work in tracking down and killing Bonnie and Clyde, who had been responsible for the deaths of a dozen law enforcement officers across several states, including Texas. After his encounter with the outlaws, Hamer became a private agent, working with oil and shipping companies. It was during this time, in the late 1930’s, that Hamer enrolled his two sons at San Marcos Academy.
Francis Augustus “Frank” Hamer, Jr., came to SMA in 1937 for half of his junior year. He graduated in May of 1938 as a cadet second lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets. He was also involved in the Central Texas Club, the Officers Club and the Rifle Club while at SMA. Hamer’s younger brother, Billy Beckham Hamer, also attended the Academy for a brief time, but had to withdraw for medical reasons. Billy Hamer went on to serve in the 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division and was killed in action at Iwo Jima in March of 1945.
Frank Hamer, Jr., joined the Marines as well in World War II, serving as a pilot and pilot instructor. He then became a Special Ranger and was assigned as a bodyguard to Texas Governor Beauford Jester and later to Governor Allen Shivers and his family.
Later, Hamer would become a pilot for the Texas Fish and Game Commission, which in 1963 became the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. After a 30-year career with the Department, Hamer retired in 1980 and lived in San Marcos, where he often told stories about his famous father.
There were many stories to be told about the legendary Frank Hamer, Sr., who is considered one of the finest Texas Rangers who ever served. During his time as a Ranger, Hamer patrolled the south Texas border, bringing arms smugglers, bootleggers and other bandits to justice. A Senior Ranger Captain at Headquarters Company in Austin, Hamer retired from the Rangers in 1932. Two years later, he was appointed by the Texas prison system as a Special Investigator with the assignment of locating Bonnie and Clyde. A meticulous three-month search eventually led Hamer and other offers to Gibsland, Louisiana, where the ambush took place.
After several years as a private agent, Hamer, Sr., was called to Ranger duty again in 1948 by Governor Coke Stevenson. Hamer assisted Stevenson in investigating election returns in the Jim Wells and Duvall counties of south Texas following the controversial U.S. Senate election between Stevenson and Lyndon Johnson (known now as the Box 13 scandal). A year later, Hamer retired for good and lived in Austin, where he died in 1955. He is buried next to his son Billy in Austin Memorial Park.
Frank Hamer: Additional Information and Connections:
The 2019 Netflix Original Film, The Highwaymen, starring Kevin Costner as former Ranger Captain Hamer and Woody Harrelson as his trusted former Ranger partner, Maney Gault, was designed to set the record straight regarding the murderous history of Bonnie and Clyde, and restored Captain Hamer’s legacy in the popular imagination. The film was directed by John Lee Hancock, and the historical consultant for publicity was one of the Academy’s former students, Jody Edward Ginn, Ph.D., who is the Executive Director of the Texas Rangers Heritage Center, part of the Former Texas Rangers Foundation. Ginn was also involved in creating the video The Untold History of The Highwaymen, featuring the great-grandsons of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault.