The Texas Game Warden Memorial in Athens will be moved to the state Capitol grounds in Austin. The memorial honors game wardens who died in the line of duty. Courtesy photo
A statue honoring Texas game wardens who lost their lives in the line of duty is moving to the state Capitol grounds in Austin, according to an agency media release. The Texas Game Warden Memorial is currently located at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, about an hour southeast of Dallas. The initiative to move the statue began in 2012 and was facilitated by the Game Warden Peace Officers Association.
“The association saw this as a necessary move, since other memorials — specifically peace officer memorials — are housed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol,” stated Maj. Quint Balkcom, game warden and association president, in the media release. “Housing the memorial on Capitol grounds would also serve a larger audience, many who have never interacted with a Texas game warden. This is an educational opportunity to learn more about our history and our critical conservation efforts.”
When the Game Warden Peace Officers Association took the reins of this project, it also facilitated the necessary funding and legislative efforts required for relocation. After multiple attempts, a 2017 resolution in support of the project passed through both chambers of the Texas Legislature. A State Preservation Board hearing in late December 2021 cleared logistical hurdles that had stalled relocation.
“This is an incredible step in the right direction,” said Col. Chad Jones, director of Law Enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in the release. “The fallen wardens this memorial honors aren’t just the wardens of the past. Some of them were my friends and colleagues. Placing the memorial at the Capitol ensures their sacrifices will be remembered daily by the leaders, residents, and visitors to this state.”
Despite overcoming monumental hurdles, the memorial still faces an uphill battle to its final home.
“Now that the project has received final approval from the State Preservation Board, we have moved into the planning phase of relocation, which will be a lengthy process as well,” Balkcom said. “Ordering the granite for a new pedestal and physically moving the memorial takes months to plan and perform, but I am thrilled the project is one step closer to its new home and honoring our fallen family the way it was intended.”
The life-size bronze figure of a Texas game warden stands atop a granite base that lists the names and dates of the game wardens who have died in service. An updated sculpture will replace the memorial in Athens in the future.
As the state’s only conservation law enforcement officers, Texas game wardens patrol a vast network of waterways, respond to natural disasters, and oversee hunting and fishing regulations. Through the agency’s 125-year history, 19 game wardens have lost their lives in the line of duty.