Hamer was a quick-thinking marksman
Frank Hamer was born on March 17, 1884, in Fairview, Texas, the second son of a blacksmith. He became adept at ranching and farming at an early age, and after finishing his schooling in the sixth grade, he began spending more time on his own in the wilderness.
The immersion in the natural world left a permanent imprint on the future lawman, who took to comparing people to animals: A criminal was a coyote, always looking over its shoulder; a murderer was "a cold-blooded rattlesnake with a chill." Hamer personally likened himself to an antelope, "the most curious of all animals."
Strong, quick-thinking and an expert marksman, Hamer was a natural fit for the Texas Rangers. He joined the state agency in 1906 and served on and off for the next quarter-century, with side ventures taking him to other law-enforcement posts in Texas. One gig, as marshal of Navasota, led to his first marriage and the acquisition of his famous Colt .45, nicknamed "Old Lucky."
During another job, as a range detective for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Hamer inserted himself into a blood feud between two prominent families. This resulted in his second marriage and a very close brush with death when he was shot at point-blank range by his bride's ex-brother-in-law. By 1921, he was back with the Rangers for good as a senior captain and operating out of Austin.
Hamer's reputation as a man of strong morals became widely known in the late 1920s when he challenged the Texas Bankers Association for a bounty system that encouraged the killing of bank robbers. He also earned renown for defending African-American suspects from lynch mobs, though his efforts weren't enough to ward off catastrophe in May 1930, when an angry crowd in Sherman burned a courthouse to the ground to get a rape suspect. By early 1933, with newly reelected Governor Ma Ferguson overhauling the organization, Hamer was no longer an active Ranger.
Like Hamer, Gault was reliable and tough
Ben Maney Gault was born on June 21, 1886, in Travis County, Texas. He began his career at a furniture manufacturing plant in Austin, where, as a neighbor of Hamer's, he became involved in undercover moonshine investigations, until officially joining the Rangers in 1929.
Gault was similar in many ways to Hamer; he was quiet, honest, reliable and, while not an imposing presence, was capable of handling himself in tough situations. As such, the two took an immense liking to one another, bonding over hunting and poker games.
Bonnie and Clyde had been on the run for two years before Hamer and Gault began their hunt for the duo
In early 1934, Hamer was paid a visit by Texas prison superintendent Lee Simmons. Bonnie, Clyde and their associates had already been at large for two years, evading capture through the South and Midwest with their powerful stolen cars and firearms. A recent break-in at the Eastham Prison, which freed five convicts and left a guard dead, was the final straw, and Hamer was promised full authority to rein in the criminals.
Hamer sought to learn everything he could about his targets, his research giving him an idea of Clyde's general path through Texas, Louisiana and Missouri. He established contacts with the FBI and law enforcement through the region, with one sheriff, Henderson Jordan of Bienville Parrish, Louisiana, proving crucial to the mission's success.
With Gault on board for the hunt, Hamer focused on one identified associate, Henry Methvin, who was known to visit his family in Jordan's neck of the woods. The lawmen got a break when Methvin's father, Ivy, fearful for his family's safety, agreed to help steer the criminals into their grasp.
On the morning of May 23, 1934, with Bonnie and Clyde expected to return to the Methvin home, Ivy was instructed to park his truck on the main road into town and pretend like he was changing a tire. At around 9:15 am, Bonnie and Clyde thundered down the road in their Ford V-8 and slowed to help. Hamer had hoped to take them alive, but the plan evaporated when a logging truck also appeared, the confusion causing one deputy to open fire. With Bonnie and Clyde reaching for their weapons, the floodgates opened, and the lawmen decisively ended the battle by pumping 167 bullets and buckshot at the car's passengers.
Hamer and Gault did not like the attention they received after killing Bonnie and Clyde
The highly publicized shootout brought Hamer the sort of widespread attention he despised. He said he would not attend the proposed Hamer-Gault Hero Day in Austin, and turned down all media offers to share his story of the Bonnie and Clyde investigation with the public.
Gault proved equally tight-lipped on the subject. He quietly served out the remainder of his years as captain of the Rangers' Company C division, with one profile in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal describing him as "taciturn as a turtle in a drought." He died in relative anonymity in December 1947.
Hamer, meanwhile, enjoyed a lucrative post-Ranger career as head of a private security company. He emerged for one final legendary lawman moment in 1948, when he accompanied Texas Senate hopeful Coke Stevenson into the town of Alice to investigate suspicions of voter fraud by Lyndon B. Johnson's operatives, though LBJ would eventually win the seat. Hamer died in his sleep after suffering a heart attack on the night of July 10, 1955.