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To protect, serve and teach: Retired Texas Ranger heads Criminal Justice

G.W. Hildebrand - ACC Faculty

A former Texas Ranger, GW Hildebrand now leads the ACC Criminal Justice Department.

GW Hildebrand’s resume is as impressive as it is long. State trooper. Texas Ranger. FBI profiler. Criminal justice professor. And to think he went to college to become a dentist.

“I couldn’t handle chemistry,” he confesses.

The head of Austin Community College’s Criminal Justice Department was born in Oakland, Calif., but moved to Oregon when he was 10. As a teenager, Hildebrand received a football scholarship to Southern Oregon College, where he took a criminology class on the recommendation of a friend.

“I got hooked probably the first class period,” he says.

But Hildebrand blew out his knee and lost his football scholarship. Financial aid was hard to come by, so he was forced to drop out. He went to work in a sawmill, and then the recession hit.

Hildebrand relocated to Arkansas for a job in his uncle’s body shop. It was there he saw an ad seeking police officers in Texarkana.

“They hired me and gave me a uniform, told me to go get my hair cut … and I was on routine patrol the next day.”

Thus began his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement.

As a Texarkana police officer, Hildebrand was able to get his books and tuition paid for at Texarkana Community College. He earned the 60 credits needed to become a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. He worked his way up to sergeant and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice.

It was during his time with DPS that Hildebrand encountered the worst thing he ever saw in his career – an airliner crash in 1985 at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

“I was driving through DFW Airport at the very moment when Delta Flight 191 crashed,” he says of the accident, which killed 135 people. “I spent the next probably 48 hours at that crash site. That was tough.”

In 1987, Hildebrand joined the Texas Rangers, the elite investigative force of the DPS. During this time he met Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards, who was running for governor. When a threat was made on her life, Hildebrand ensured the safety of Richards and her family.

When Richards was elected governor in 1991, Hildebrand became her head of security, a position he held for her entire four-year term.

“That was an incredible experience,” he says. “She was a remarkable person.”

As if being a Texas Ranger wasn’t enough, Hildebrand also went through the FBI Academy. He was trained to be a criminal profiler, a post he holds to this day. He worked on cases such as “The Railroad Killer,” responsible for a series of murders near railroad tracks; and “The Texas Seven,” a group of escapees from a maximum-security prison in South Texas.

In 2004, Hildebrand retired from the Texas Rangers.

“The old-timers say, ‘You’ll know when it’s time to go,’” he says. “I wasn’t bitter. I wasn’t sour. I just knew it was time to go.”

And though Hildebrand feels sorry for anyone who isn’t a Texas Ranger, being a professor is his dream job.

He has been teaching full time at Austin Community College since his retirement. As chair of the Criminal Justice Department, he works closely with local police agencies. The department’s advisory board consists of many of the top police administrators throughout the district, as well as the head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the former chief of the Texas Rangers.

“They’re interested in what we’re doing so we can produce people they can hire,” he says.

ACC’s Criminal Justice Department has seen its graduates land jobs in local, state, and federal positions. And Hildebrand is very proud of his students, for whom he has not one piece of advice but several. Be honest. Protect your integrity. Do things right every time. Respect the Constitution and the rule of law. Treat people fairly.

“I emphasize that every class I teach,” he says.

Hildebrand teaches classes in Criminal Investigation, Criminal Law, and Legal Aspects.

That’s about as far away from Chemistry 101 as you can get.

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6 Responses to “To protect, serve and teach: Retired Texas Ranger heads Criminal Justice”

  1. Patrick Roberson says:

    I had the pleasure of taking a course that Professor Hildebrand taught. It was Criminal Investigation. I have to say, one of the best courses I have taken. After reading this bio, I am very blessed to have been taught by someone who has all the experience he has. He always emphasised to be honest, protect your integrity, do things right every time, just as he stated in the article. The Criminal Justice Department is very lucky to have someone with his knowledge and caliber. Thanks G.W.

  2. Chris Flo (D/Lt., Ret'd. Mich St. Pol) says:

    The man demonstrates the dedication necessary to honor the expectations of his position. His career illustrates that it is in your work ethic that brings status to both his Department and to his own fulfillment. Great Job !!!!!!!!!!

  3. Marti Cox says:

    Professor Hildebrand is an amazing guy. With his background knowledge, experience, education, and personality he could be teaching anywhere in the world. We are truly blessed that he has chosen ACC as his home.
    He always takes time for students whether it’s in his position as Dept Chair, instructor, providing advice, or just a friendly chat. I am extremely honored to have been able to work with Professor Hildebrand and I am proud to call him my friend.

  4. Randall K. Odom says:

    ACC and the students at ACC should feel fortunate to have an instructor who has personally and professionally experienced the curriculum he is instructing. The students gain insight and knowledge of Hildebrand’s field experience, which is more than students receive at the university level. Most universities have academians/professors who have never served as peace officers instructing students in peace officer curriculum. Hildebrand’s experience is often shared during his presentation, providing first hand examples of how the principles of the curriculum he is instructing are lawfully implemented by a peace officer and more importantly, the real life consequences of violating those principles. As Chief of Training for the law enforcement division of a state agency, it is important to share with students the institutional knowledge and culture of the law enforcement community. Hildebrand certainly provides more than academic instruction to his students.

  5. BethAnn says:

    G.W. Hildebrand has been a true ‘friend’ of the academic testing centers in which I’ve worked in that he is organized and cooperative. I’ve never told him that I was a little anxious the first time he strode in to the TECE (he casts a long ’shadow’) but I learned that he’s a very straight forward and genuine man. It took a good person to fill Roger Leathers’ shoes and ACC’s a better place because of professors such as him.
    Well-written and informative article!

  6. Laura Tabor-Huerta says:

    Thanks for the article. It is always interesting to hear a person’s career story.