Willis L. Lang, planter, Texas Ranger, and Confederate Army officer, the youngest of five children of William A. and Temperance (Thurman) Lang, was born on November 29, 1830, in Wayne County, Mississippi. He and his brother William W. Lang were educated in their family's plantation school and subsequently attended Oakland College in Claiborne County. The two brothers divided the honor of graduating first in their class of 1848. Willis read law in the office of his brother-in-law, Thomas P. Faulkner, in Alabama, but upon the death of his father in 1849 he returned to Mississippi to administer the plantation. Two years of failed crops, however, induced him to move to Texas. With seventy-five slaves and his agricultural implements, Lang settled twelve miles from the Falls County community of Marlin by February 20, 1856. In April 1860 he enlisted as what he called a "high private" in Capt. J. M. Smith's company of "Waco Rangers"; he served until the following September on a campaign against marauding Kickapoos and Comanches. As Lang had expected, the company did not get into an Indian fight but enjoyed "a grand buffalo hunt." Lawrence Sullivan Ross became the company's captain in an election held on May 20, and Lang was elected lieutenant.
At the time of secession from the Union Lang raised a company of lancers for Confederate service. This unit was mustered into the army at Camp Sibley near San Antonio on September 2, 1861, as Company B of Gen. Thomas Green's Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers. At the battle of Valverde on February 21, 1862, Lang suffered a severe wound and was left behind at the Socorro Hospital when Gen. Henry H. Sibley's army moved up the Rio Grande toward Albuquerque. Suffering intense pain and conscious of the fact that recovery was impossible, Lang ordered his body servant to bring him his revolver, with which he committed suicide on March 2, 1862. A typescript of his diary is located in the Barker Texas History Center, at the University of Texas at Austin.