Jackson was a Texas Ranger during most of his law enforcement career, serving in the Uvalde area and later in Alpine. He was born in 1935 and hired on with DPS briefly before becoming a Texas Ranger. He served a total of 27 years with the Texas Rangers before retiring in 1993.
With writer James L. Haley, he wrote his memoir One Ranger, published in 2005. In it, he tells about his modest upbringing, his Marine Corps service and his education, attending West Texas State, Texas Tech and Sul Ross from which he received his degree. He also discusses his relationship with his father and mother, his courtship of and marriage to his first wife, the former Shirley Conder, but mostly his long career as a Texas Ranger.
In One Ranger, Jackson recounts many memorable cases including the 1980s shooting that occurred in the narrow Colorado Canyon section of the Rio Grande. A Mexican juvenile was charged with shooting two tourists and their guide, resulting in the death of one of the tourists and wounding of the other two. Jackson also relates the pursuit and capture of “the See More Kid” (Charles Brogdon), the South Texas kidnapping of the daughter of Bill Whitehead and many other cases. His first-person accounts of the events surrounding the crimes are very interesting and make One Ranger good reading. He does not mince words when giving his account of the arrest and trial of his son Don Joaquin. He also deals with the technological, social and political changes that led to his retirement from the Rangers. Haley and Jackson also collaborated on a second book, One Ranger Returns, released in 2008.
Jackson takes credit for the discovery of singer Johnny Rodriguez of Sabinal, Texas and Rodriguez acknowledges Jackson’s role in the start of his career. Rodriguez had a poor but otherwise normal childhood, being one of a family of 10 children. However, early on, his father died of cancer and his closest brother Andy died in a car wreck. These incidents seemed to have a negative effect on Rodriguez. He was in and out of jail for petty crimes until Jackson, who had become acquainted with him, had Rodriguez sing for officers in the jail as the youth accompanied himself on Shirley’s old hand me down Gibson guitar. The officers gave him a chance and agreed to release the singer if he paid a fine, rather than have him spend more time in jail. Rodriguez later went to work for promoter James T. “Happy” Shahan at his now-defunct Alamo Village which operated for a short while near Bracketville, Texas on the former set of John Wayne’s The Alamo.
Rodriguez came to Nashville with only a little cash in his pocket and caught on with artist Tom T. Hall as a backup guitar player. He eventually signed a recording contract with Mercury Records. His debut album “Introducing Johnny Rodriguez” was a number one best seller and began his long recording career with Mercury and other labels. His personal life was not without incident, however. In 1998, he shot and killed a young acquaintance, Israel “Bosco” Borrego in his home. Rodriguez testifyied that he believed Borrego to be burglarizing the residence. It was more complicated than a case of mistaken identity, as the victim had apparently been instructed to stay away from the residence. Rodriguez was tried but acquitted of murder in 1999. Though not as active as he once was, the singer continues to record and perform. Rodriquez’s honors include being named “Male Vocalist of the Year” and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage, Texas. He has also received the Pioneer Award from the Institute of Hispanic Culture.
In his later years, Jackson worked in and around the movie business, with his first exposure to the industry coming when actor Nick Nolte contacted the agency to inquire about riding along. The agency approved it, so the actor rode with Jackson for three weeks. His first experience in front of the camera was as an extra in a film in which he had no dialogue. Later, he served as security coordinator for the two-episode miniseries Rough Riders, the Larry McMurtry adaptation Dead Man’s Walk, and The Good Old Boys. He also made appearances in about a half dozen films including an adaptation of The Good Old Boys (based on the Elmer Kelton novel), Rough Riders, another McMurtry adaptation called The Streets of Laredo, Palo Pinto Gold and Wild Horses with Robert Duvall. He was a consultant on the 2015 film, Hell or High Water. In the latter film, actor Jeff Bridges says that he based his character on Jackson.
After a battle with cancer, Jackson passed away at age 80 in 2016, shortly after the release of Hell or High Water. He was survived by his second wife, two sons and two grandchildren. His memorial service was held at the Pete P. Gallego Center on the Sul Ross University campus with requests that donations be directed either to the University or the Former Texas Rangers Foundation. Jackson is interred at a cemetery in Alpine.
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