Sterling, William Warren (1891–1960)

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: April 16, 2019

William Warren Sterling, lawman, son of Edward A. and Mary (Chamberlain) Sterling, was born near Belton, Texas, on April 27, 1891, and spent his early years on his family's ranch before they moved to Beaumont in 1901. He entered Texas A&M at seventeen and two years later was working on ranches near Falfurrias and in Hidalgo County. During 1915–16, when political unrest in Mexico spilled over the Rio Grande border, he was a posseman and scout for the Third United States Cavalry in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. During World War I he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Ninth Texas Infantry. Afterward he was in Mirando City as deputy sheriff and justice of the peace during the oil boom in Webb County. In 1927 Governor Dan Moody appointed him captain, Company D, Texas Rangers, and he was sent immediately to the boomtown of Borger. In 1928 his ranger headquarters was moved to Falfurrias. About this time the sculptor Gutzon Borglum used Sterling as the model for his planned Texas Ranger statue. In 1929 Sterling was in Pettus when an oil boom started there, and he helped stop the lawlessness. During the administration of Governor Ross S. Sterling he served as adjutant general (commander of the Texas Rangers and the Texas National Guard); in this capacity he closed the Red River bridge at Denison during the much publicized Red River bridge controversy between Oklahoma and Texas in 1931. Sterling resigned from the rangers at the close of his service as adjutant general in 1933. As a colonel during World War II he helped set up selective service for the Eighth Service Command. Sterling managed the Driscoll ranches in South Texas and later appraised ranches. His book, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger, was published in 1959. He was married to Zora Lou Eckhardt, and they had two daughters. Sterling died on April 26, 1960, and was buried in Seaside Memorial Park, Corpus Christi.

Austin American, April 27, 1960, August 28, 1969. Brooks County Texan, March 22, 1929. Cattleman, May 1960. Corpus Christi Caller and Daily Herald, February 15, 16, 27, 28, 1915. Oran Warder Nolen, "Col. W. W. Sterling: Cowman, Texas Ranger and a Prince among Men," Cattleman, June 1966. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Law Officers
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Military

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Sterling, William Warren,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 16, 2019