(Image credit: wacohistory.org)
Captain Clinton Thomas Peoples was born August 25, 1910 in Bridgeport, Wise County, Texas to William Thomas and Susie May Johnson Baugh Peoples. In Bridgeport, his parents ran a cafe and candy store. The family later moved to the King Ranch where his father managed a section of the ranch. He attended high school in Conroe where they were living at the time.
His first job in law enforcement was to serve beginning in 1930 as a deputy sheriff in Conroe, Texas. He became acquainted with Montgomery County Sheriff Ben Hicks who had allowed Peoples to ride with him as an observer. An opening came up and Peoples applied for the position. He was not really old enough to hold the job but, apparently by his own admission, he claimed to be older. It was in Conroe that he married the former Donna Lee Henderson in 1934. After serving as a deputy and rising to the rank of chief deputy, he was appointed by Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson to be a special “Texas Ranger” and investigator over four Texas state horse racing tracks. He passed a law enforcement examination and became a Texas Highway Patrolman in the Department of Public Safety in 1941. After serving for the Department for five years, in 1946 Peoples became a Texas Ranger when an opening came up. He served with the Rangers in some capacity from 1946 until his retirement in 1974. Following his resignation from the Rangers, Peoples was appointed a United States Marshal for the northern district of Texas until around 1990.
His tenure in Conroe coincided with the oil boom in Montgomery County. The discovery of oil in Texas brought with it new residents, some transient, and many times an element of lawlessness and crime. Of this period, Peoples would be quoted in a United Press International article as saying, “The best law enforcement experience I had was working during the oil boom. It was the Depression era. People were starving to death. There were a lot of gangsters trying to move into our county.”
As a Ranger, he first worked out of Austin in the Headquarters Company. His career of around thirty years with the Rangers spanned four decades. Some of the major cases he was involved in included the George Parr case, the Billie Sol Estes case, the Maceo brothers gambling case and the “Chicken Ranch” in La Grange. Parr was a political figure in South Texas and is alleged to have aided the senatorial election of Lyndon B. Johnson by influencing a favorable vote in Jim Wells County in 1948. In the Billie Sol Estes case, Peoples worked on it for twenty-three years, beginning with the suspicious death in 1961 of federal investigator Henry Marshall and alleged fraudulent activities by Estes. The Maceo brothers, Italian by lineage, were alleged to have created a bootlegging and gambling empire in Galveston. The Chicken Ranch was a well known brothel (illegal in Texas but apparently tolerated by authorities) that operated for almost sixty years from 1905 to 1973 until law enforcement forced it to close.
A common thread through the Parr and Estes cases was future President Lyndon B. Johnson. Over the years, attempts have also been made to connect Johnson to both of these cases as well as the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, including the grand jury testimony of Estes, but no formal connection was ever made. Another conspiracy thread attempts to connect the Henry Marshall murder case with the Kennedy assassination by alleging the involvement in both cases of one Malcolm “Mac” Wallace.
Peoples was appointed to the United States Marshal service under President Gerald Ford in 1974. He remained in the Marshal service during the Carter Administration and also served under President Ronald Reagan.
On June 23, 1992, the Kerrville Times carried a three paragraph article under the headline “Noted former Texas Ranger dies in crash.” It related that the 81 year old Peoples had been killed in one car accident when his vehicle veered off a Waco street and collided with a utility pole. The article went on to state that the long time lawman was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center by McLennan County Justice of the Peace Steve Kazanas. Peoples was interred at Waco Memorial Park just off Interstate 35 south of town between Robinson and Hewitt.
He entered the Texas Rangers as a private and his highest rank in the Rangers was Senior Captain. He was a Mason and a member of the Baptist Church. His honors include having the Montgomery County law enforcement training facility named for him. He was also influential in the establishment of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame facility in Waco and was inducted into its own hall of fame.
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