Unfortunately, the 2020 Texas Prison Museum Directors Cup Golf Tournament and the Old Timers Reunion have been cancelled. Hopefully, we can host these events in 2021. Once decided, the details will be announced.
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.
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, Kevin, and Sheryl all have experience working withing the prison system. Rita, Cindy, Bryson, Chris, and Devin 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. 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.
The Board of Directors
The Texas Prison Museum Board oversees the operations of the museum. The Board members are:
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.
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.