During the late 1950s and early 1960s, a familiar four-legged friend trotted around Aggieland sporting a big, slobbery—but nonetheless adorable—grin. Ranger I, the first of three English bulldogs that belonged to the family of Gen. James Earl Rudder ’32, was famous for his jovial disposition, antics and ability to befriend anyone he met.
Named after the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion that Gen. Rudder led onto the banks of Normandy during World War II, Ranger I’s popularity was second only to Reveille. The nomadic dog roamed at will, frequently visiting lectures and the dining halls, hoping for a morsel.
John Choate '67 poses with Ranger I during the annual Corps vs. Civilian football game, during which the bulldog served as the unofficial civilian mascot.
Former student John Choate ’67 recalls his friendship with Ranger, nicknamed “Earl,” and how he made campus his home. “After the president’s house burned down in the early 1960s, Ranger no longer had a home base,” Choate said. “I think that’s why he became a wanderer.”
But Ranger didn’t always travel by foot. One of his favorite pastimes was hitchhiking, and he frequently blocked traffic while trying to bum a ride.
“He would wait in the middle of the road by the Northside post office as cars entered campus,” Choate recalled. “If the driver was unfamiliar with his tactics, they honked and attempted to pass him on the left, usually unsuccessfully. If that car escaped him, he would start on the next one in line. All he wanted was a ride. I had a motorcycle at the time, and Ranger loved riding on the gas tank with his front legs on the handlebars and his ears flapping in the wind.”
Once back on campus, Ranger would either return to the post office for his next ride or make his way to Sbisa for dinner. “Students loved to take care of him,” said Choate. “He was every Aggie’s buddy.”
Indeed, Ranger uniquely united the student body. While Reveille was the official university mascot, tended to by the Corps of Cadets, Ranger stood as a symbol for the civilian students. In the 1960s, at Choate’s suggestion, he even served as the unofficial civilian mascot during the annual Corps vs. Civilian football game held between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
With the help of his mother, Choate created a cape for Ranger with the university letters “TAM” emblazoned on one side and the words “Non-Regs” on the other. Although the civilian team lost the game, Ranger got his 15 minutes of fame. The next day, a snapshot of Choate and Ranger circulated in the local newspaper.
A similar anecdote describes an incident where Ranger filled in for Reveille during the first football game of the 1965 season against the University of Houston. The substitution was far from a success. By the end of the game, Ranger had attacked the Houston mascot and tripped a handful of Texas A&M marching band members after trotting on field during the performance.
When he wasn’t wreaking havoc, Ranger could be found operating candy machines and acting as the campus bulletin board. Students were fond of painting their Corps outfit emblems on him or writing popular slogans such as “Beat The Hell Outta TU.” The Battalion’s editorial staff periodically wrote about Ranger and even went so far as to jokingly endorse the canine companion for the U.S. presidency. A list of qualifying factors included his “bulldog tenacity” and “unquestionable moral integrity.”
On Dec. 9, 1965, the lovable bulldog passed away following surgery for a kidney infection. He was buried on campus outside the president’s house, where he remains today. A tombstone that reads “Every Aggie’s Friend” marks his grave, while a collar, dog bowl and bone rest nearby.
Two more bulldogs—Ranger II and III—followed the original Ranger. Several documents state that Ranger II was a gift to the Rudder family from the Class of 1966, while Ranger III technically belonged to Bob Rudder, son of Earl and Margaret. In university historical records, it is particularly difficult to distinguish between accounts of Ranger II and III, but by all reports, the pups were similarly mischievous and well loved by the Aggie student body.