Announcements

Donate to the TPM Building Expansion Fund

See the new book published by the museum: Electrocutions in Texas: 1924-1964

Winners of the Prison Museum Raffle:

  • Marshall Herklotz, 2017 Ford F-150 XLT Super Crew cab pickup
  • Matt Gross, 2018 EZ-Go S4 Golf Cart
  • William Huebner, $1500 gun

Thanks to everyone who participated in this fund raiser.

13th annual Old Timers. October 13, 2018, 10:00-2:00pm. All retirees welcome.

Special information for school tours.

About the Museum

The Texas Prison Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the state's imprisoned citizens. The museum features numerous exhibits detailing the history of the Texas prison system, featuring a look inside the operations behind the fences and walls.

Huntsville's prison museum is frequented by a cross-section of the public, ranging from grade-school students on field trips, to tourists from around the world. Since moving to the permanent museum building in 2002 the number of visitors has risen to over 34,000 per year.

The Texas Prison Museum, in existence since 1989, is a non-profit business, overseen by a board of trustees. Staffing consists of one full-time employee, several part-time personnel, and some dedicated volunteers. The museum depends on your support. You can help by becoming a patron.

The Staff

Bill Stephens is the director of the Prison Museum. Bill spent 35 years with the Correctional Institutions Division, beginning as a correctional officer at the Wynne Unit and retiring as the director of the prison system. Riley Tilley is the gift shop supervisor and retired with 26 years prison system experience. Vernette is retired from the prison system after 25 years of service. Roger also retired from the prison system with 30 years service. Rita, Cindy, Kevon, Mikaila, Jacqueline, and Clarice have become familiar with the history of the Texas prison system and can assist you in our gift shop. Susie is our office manager and the person to contact for the use of our conference room or setting up a tour group. Kalli is the curator of our museum and the person to contact should you need to do research on the Texas prison system. Henry is our volunteer and also is retired from the prison system with 39 years of service and quite knowledgeable about Texas prison history. Jim Willett, our recently retired Museum Director will be volunteering at the museum as well. He retired from the TDCJ-ID after 30 years of service and 17 years with the Texas Prison Museum.

View the Staff Photo Gallery

The Board of Directors

The Texas Prison Museum Board oversees the operations of the museum. The Board members are:

  • Tommy Martin, President
  • Henry Henderson, Secretary
  • Tom Pierce
  • Tony D'Cunha
  • David Stacks
  • Cindy Loeffler
  • Detra Lacy
  • Michael Upshaw
  • Jason Eason

Must See

Lee Simmons, The Texas Prison Rodeo, and Bonnie & Clyde

At the end of the Roaring ‘20’s the Texas penitentiary was in bad shape with overcrowded conditions and money problems. As usual, the administration of the prison system was not providing good leadership. Enter Lee Simmons in 1930 as the General Manager. Mr. Simmons appears to have been the first to make positive changes for both inmates and guards. With all of the operational improvements that Lee Simmons established for the prison system, he is most known for two things that did not have to do with the daily operations. Mr. Simmons conceived the idea of a prison rodeo in Huntsville. Beginning in 1931 at the inmate baseball park adjacent to the Walls Unit, the Texas Prison Rodeo quickly became known across the nation and around the world as the Wildest Show Behind Bars. It was the prison system’s premier public relations event, held every Sunday in October. The rodeo lasted through 1986.

Photograph of a 5-barrel shotgun made by inmates hoping to escape.
Lee Simmons is also responsible for the demise of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. After their raid of the prison system’s Eastham Unit caused the death of one of the guards, Mr. Simmons hired former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to find and put an end to Bonnie and Clyde. Mr. Hamer did just that. Upon his return, Mr. Hamer presented a pistol from the Bonnie and Clyde death car to Mr. Simmons.

Now, thanks to the Simmons family, treasures from the Lee Simmons era can be viewed at the Texas Prison Museum. The family has graciously loaned us several artifacts and an album of pictures. A nickel plated pistol found in the death car of Bonnie and Clyde, a five barrel shotgun (at left) handmade by some inmates who were hoping to escape, and a homemade pistol are examples of items now on special display. We urge you to come see these unique items on loan to the museum by the Simmons family.