This past week, Americans saddled up for the new summer flick version of “The Lone Ranger.” Many
people think the Lone Ranger may just be a masked hero with a cowboy hat, pistols with silver bullets
riding a white horse named Silver. But to me, he was more. He was my childhood hero.
The real Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, was the superhero on my tin lunch box that I took to school as
a boy. It now sits in my office next to his autographed picture that says, “I too believe in Law &
Our paths crossed years ago at the courthouse when I was a judge. I found him sitting in my court
room. This time, he was the victim of crime.
And so the legendary case, as I recall it, goes like this:
In the 50s and 60s, Clayton Moore portrayed the Lone Ranger in the famous TV sitcom sponsored by
Cheerios. It was my favorite show until it was cancelled. I couldn’t believe it was over. But, the Lone
Ranger didn’t lose his identity; he went on to travel around the world making appearances at benefits.
He would dress up like the Lone Ranger wearing his hat, mask, and ivory handled pistols and he’d talk
Back in 1988 during the Christmas season, the Lone Ranger flew to Houston to speak at a charity for
disabled children. He came, he spoke, and he left town in a flash– just like he did on the TV show. But,
when he arrived back in California, he had become the victim of a bold thief. A baggage handler at the
Houston airport stole his luggage. In his luggage was not only his Lone Ranger outfit, but his two
Ivory handled .45 Colt revolver pistols – worth several thousands of dollars. These weren’t fake
pistols, they were the real things – might as well have been the Hope Diamond itself.
The baggage handler thief was quick to take action. That same day, he made his way to a pawn shop,
with his loot. He handed over the pistols to see how much he could get for them. But before he knew
it, he was in handcuffs on his way to the jailhouse. Simply put, the pawn shop employees knew exactly
what the crook was up to and who those guns belonged to. So the law was called and the thief was
charged with theft of the Lone Ranger’s guns!
Low and behold, the case landed in my court!
At the trial, the courtroom was packed with spectators. When Clayton Moore was called as a witness,
he walked through the door dressed like the Lone Ranger - mask, hat, and all – concealing his true
identity. (I have often thought this was the idea of the Houston Police detective that investigated the
case – but he denies it to this day.) The defense attorney quickly and loudly objected to the attired
witness and demanded that Clayton Moore change his clothes and take off his mask. I summarily
overruled that objection and Clayton Moore wore his outfit. The reason: outlaws have been trying to
find out the identity of the Lone Ranger for years and I wasn’t about to be the person to go down in the
history books as the one who unmasked the Lone Ranger! (The ruling was later upheld on appeal.) The
defendant was convicted by a jury of felony theft. The jury then assessed his punishment at 10 years
When it came to the terms of probation, one of the conditions that I imposed and thought appropriate
was that the convicted offender - the one who stole the Lone Ranger’s guns - work 20 hours per
month doing community service at the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Division stables –
cleaning up after horses like Silver, Trigger (Roy Rogers) and Buttercup (Dale Evans).
The thief became a Houston phenomenon. People from all over would stop at the Post Oak stables
just to see the man who stole the Lone Ranger’s guns.
The Lone Ranger’s identity was never revealed. Because as singer Jim Croce said, there are three
things you don’t do: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind and you don’t pull
off the mask of that old Lone Ranger.”
Clayton Moore and I became friends and remained so until his death. I admired him because in-person
he was the same man of character who believed in the justice that he advocated for on TV as an actor.
Each of the old black and white Lone Ranger TV sitcoms would end the same way. The Lone Ranger
would capture the outlaw and grateful citizens would show their appreciation. Suddenly, the Lone
Ranger would disappear. Then someone would ask, “who was that masked man?” But the Lone Ranger
and his sidekick Tonto (Jay Silverheels) would be long gone, riding over a distant hill with the Ranger
saying, “Hi-Yo Silver Away!” – still wearing his mask.
And that’s just the way it