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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