In 1821, Stephen F. Austin made a contract to bring several hundred families to the Spanish province which now is Texas. Because there was no regular army to protect the families, Austin organized a group of men to range over the entire country, thus giving rise to the service known as the Texas Rangers.
As the frontier disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century, Ranger activities were redirected towards law enforcement among the citizens. Each Ranger was considered an officer and was given the right to perform all duties exercised by any other peace officer. The modern-day Ranger with statewide law enforcement jurisdiction came into being on September 1935 when the Texas Legislature formed the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Rangers as well as the Texas Highway Patrol became members of the organization.
Doyle Holdridge has written a fascinating book describing his experiences enforcing the law along the Texas border with Mexico from El Paso to Brownsville. The Rio Grande is the main barrier between Mexico and Texas. The distance between the mouth of the Rio Grande to a point just upstream of El Paso is 2,019 km (1,254 miles). The long border and the ease with which it can be crossed makes law enforcement difficult and challenging.
The Texas Rangers should not be confused with the U.S. Border Patrol, although they sometimes have overlapping jurisdiction. The Border Patrol is a federal law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security whose mission is to prevent the entry of terrorists, illegal aliens and international drug traffickers into the United States. The Texas Rangers is a law enforcement agency within the state of Texas. The Texas Rangers may perform a wide variety of functions such as tracking down fugitives, and investigating murders or political corruption. Rangers also have acted as riot police, detectives, and provided protection for the Governor of Texas.
In 1993, CBS started broadcasting the television show Walker, Texas Ranger, starring Chuck Norris as Ranger Cordell Walker. In the show, Ranger Walker uses martial arts to subdue his opponents. Typically, Walker performs a roundhouse kick to the villain's face which is replayed in slow motion. The cast for the first six regular seasons of Walker, Texas Ranger included Clarence Gilyard who plays the assistant Trivette, Chuck Norris as Ranger Walker, Sheree J. Wilson as a Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney, and Noble Willingham who plays a retired Ranger now operating a small restaurant.
The name of the famous Texas Rangers law enforcement agency is also used by a professional baseball team in Texas. The Texas Rangers Baseball team represents the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area in the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The Texas Rangers home field is in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.