Rio History: There’s a New Marshall in Town

Special to the PRESS

Ronalyn Adams could disarm just about any criminal with her looks,” reporter Mack Sisk wrote in a 1973 article “She is pretty and she is pretty tough.”

“I’m just a mean redhead,” the 5-foot-7, 132-pound Mrs. Adams said, “and I’ve always wanted to be a cop.” Ronalyn Adams’ dream came true when she received 12 more write-in votes than the other 18 write-in candidates and was elected as the newly incorporated Town of South Padre Island’s first Town Marshal.

Her jurisdiction covered several miles of beach and 200 citizens. “We don’t have much crime and no real problems,” the 27-year-old pistol packing mother of two told a reporter. If there was a major crime she could count on the backing of the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department whose deputies were readily available when needed.
By day, she worked in a beauty shop armed with nothing but a loaded can of hairspray, but when performing her duties as keeper of the peace, she toted a bone handled six-shooter.

Even though she was in a job that traditionally was held by men, she still relished in her feminism. She told one reporter, “When I wear a dress, it’s short. I like having doors opened for me and my dinner paid for, and,” she added matter of factly, “I like to be pampered.”

“The only thing I feel toward women’s lib is that a woman ought to be paid the same as a man when she does the same job.” Ironically she was paid exactly the same wage as any man serving in the same position. Town Marshal was not a paying job back then, in fact, no city jobs in the Town of South Padre Island were. The town’s coffers were bone dry.

She was not without experience in crowd control as she and her husband at one time ran a tavern on the Island. “I was better at handling the drunks,” she said in her interview with K. Mack Smith.

Philip Adams, an air-conditioner repairman, told the reporter that he thought his wife’s new job was great, but that the only thing he did not like was people calling him “Chester,” in reference to Marshall Dillon’s side kick on the popular TV show, “Gunsmoke.”

“Oh, we have a sense of humor,” Mrs. Adams quipped, but if anyone ever calls me “pig,” I might take it the wrong way.

Marshal Adams found her bailiwick fairly peaceful, except for a lot of pot smoking during Easter Break when there were thousands of college students jamming the beach for a surfing contest.

Ronalyn Adams’ career in law enforcement was brief though, as she resigned after six weeks saying too much time was being taken from her beauty shop work. In the six weeks she resolved a couple of trespasses, one armed robbery and a drowning, but made no arrests.

Eventually, Ronalyn and her family moved away from the Island and Ronalyn now resides in Branson MO. where she runs a day care center — an ironic vocation for a former law-enforcement officer involved in South Padre Island’s earliest Spring Break.

Update: My contact information for Ronalyn was lost when my computer crashed. If you have current information please forward it to

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