Joaquin Jackson

He turned in his badge nearly a decade ago, but he'll always be a Texas Ranger.
Joaquin Jackson
Lion in the winter: In May the former lawman posed again for photographer Dan Winters.
Photograph by Dan Winters

In February 1994 Texas Monthly published an article titled “ The Twilight of the Texas Rangers.” It described how the organization’s legendary history and traditions clashed with the changing realities of the modern world, and a black and white photograph of Ranger Joaquin Jackson, taken by Dan Winters, graced the issue’s cover. The image, which evoked a simple place and time, became a poster and, in 1998, the cover of The Pictures of Texas Monthly, a book celebrating the magazine’s first 25 years.

On October 1, 1993, Jackson retired from the Rangers after 27 years of service. He is 66 now and his mustache is peppered with gray, but at six-feet-five he still cuts an imposing figure. These days Jackson is working on his autobiography with author David Marion Wilkinson. With a working title of Only One Ranger, the story will be told in the former lawman’s voice—from the time he was born on his grandfather’s farm in the Panhandle through his Ranger postings in Uvalde and Alpine. Each morning, as he pores over his logs and journals, Jackson relives cases he plans to include in the book—homicides he solved, corrupt elected officials he investigated, even assignments for the CIA.

“The goal of a Ranger is the protection of life and property and the preservation of the peace,” he told me in May as we visited at his ranch-style home in Alpine. “And in doing so, everyone—from the poorest son of a bitch to the richest—must be treated the same.” Jackson said his proudest accomplishment is that he never took a life during his years with the Department of Public Safety. “I feel better about not killing anyone. It’s a better deal.” He is currently serving on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association. “We do not need any more federal firearms laws; we need to enforce the ones on the books,” he said. “My motivation, pure and simple, is the protection of the Second Amendment.”

Jackson now works as a private investigator, and he has also tested the waters of the film industry. His movie credits include Streets of Laredo, Rough Riders, and The Good Old Boys, in which he played a sheriff and worked with Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, and Frances McDormand. “I told Tommy Lee that I was not an actor, and he said he did not

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