The Texas State Police During Reconstruction:
ANN PATTON BAENZIGER*
HE TEXAS STATE POLICE HAVE TRADITIONALLY BEEN REGARDED AS
one of the more unsavory aspects of Radical rule; an agency which
participated in the worst kind of skullduggery. According to Walter
Prescott Webb, "The career of the state police affords a story of official
murder and legalized oppression."' Charles W. Ramsdell believed
"some of the worst desperadoes in the state took service in the police,
and under the shield of authority committed the most high-handed
outrages. . . ." William Curtis Nunn described the force as "unnec-
essary . . . despotic [and] filled with a personnel of low type who in
some cases, committed crimes of unnatural brutality."" Otis G. Single-
tary, though less critical of the police per se, suggests that the militia
forces were created by Governor Edmund J. Davis and the Radicals
as instruments of political protection, under the pretext of concern
over lawless conditions.' Reexamination of the sources suggests that
these judgments are too harsh. While not above criticism, the State
Police was a worthwhile agency created for a legitimate purpose. Dur-
ing its brief career it accomplished much that was laudatory, and its
premature disbandment by the conservatives for political purposes
left a void which was not soon filled.
The disproportionate scorn received by the force can only be under-
stood in the context of the highly volatile times. Radical rule in Texas,
from 1870-1873, was marked by a protracted struggle between the
conservative elements that wished to regain control of state affairs and
the Radical Republicans who wished to retain their leadership. Con-
servatives included virtually all Democrats, some ex-Whigs, and some
moderate Republicans. They were united, in the main, by their op-
position to the Radicals, and persisted in attacking all Radical pro-
*Miss Baenziger is an assistant instructor of history at Southwest Texas State College.
'Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers, a Century of Frontier Defense (New York,
2Charles W. Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas (New York, 1910), 302.
"William Curtis Nunn, "A Study of the State Police During the E. J. Davis Administra-
tion" (Master's thesis, University of Texas, 1931), 192.
'Otis G. Singletary, "The Texas Militia During Reconstruction," Southwestern His-
torical Quarterly, LX (July, 1956), 24.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed January 28, 2015.