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Gary Wayne Painter (born April 2, 1947- May 26, 2019) was the Republican sheriff of Midland County, Texas, which he held since January 1, 1985. Painter died suddenly at his residence, just after midnight on Sunday May 26, 2019.

Gary Wayne Painter
Sheriff of Midland County, Texas
In office
January 1, 1985 – May 26, 2019
Preceded byDallas Smith
Personal details
Born (1947-04-02) April 2, 1947 (age 72)
Amherst, Texas
DiedMay 26, 2019
Midland, Texas
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Patsy A. Painter
ChildrenFive children
ResidenceMidland, Texas
Alma materPlainview High School

Draughons Practical Business College

Sul Ross State University
OccupationLaw-enforcement officer
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps
Battles/warsVietnam War



Though born in rural Amherst in Lamb County near Littlefield, Texas, Painter was reared in the farming community of Edmonson in Hale County north of Lubbock. His family still owns the cotton and grain farm on which he lived as a boy. In 1965, he graduated from Plainview High School in the Plainview Independent School District in Plainview, the county seat of Hale County. From 1965 to 1966, he attended in Lubbock Draughons Practical Business College,[1] since known as Daymar Institute.

On September 1, 1966, Painter enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in South Vietnam. He earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant on August 31, 1970, after exactly four years of service in the Marines.[1]

Painter and his wife, Patsy, have five children. A son, Justin, serves in the United States Air Force. A daughter, Jennifer, who is also a veteran and a teacher within Midland Independent School District. He is Baptist and a member of Lions International.[1]

Law-enforcement careerEdit

Painter then became a highway patrol officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He also worked with the sheriff's offices in Culberson and Presidio counties in southwestern Texas. In Alpine, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in police administration from Sul Ross State University. He worked too for the Midland Police Department until 1982, when he joined the Midland County sheriff's office. There he was assigned to the detention division and became a criminal investigator and a patrol lieutenant. In 1984, he ran for sheriff and won the first of his current eight terms in the office.[1]

Painter, however, almost missed being placed on the Republican primary ballot in May 1984. As he filed his completed paperwork of candidacy, county party chairman William Toler Shaner (1931-1999), the officer in charge of accepting the material, had left early, closed the office, and was at an oil field site some 170 miles from Midland. Though Painter got the material to Shaner, with the filing fee, by 8 p.m. on the night of the Friday deadline, his papers were declared invalid because they were not filed by 5 p.m. Painter went to court to get on the ballot; the judge decreed that Painter met all ballot qualifications; the absence of the party chairman made the 5 p.m. deadline impossible to uphold.[2]

A sheriff in Texas is a peace officer who enforces state criminal laws and is responsible for the county jail, bail bonds, civil process, and court security. In some smaller counties, he is also the tax collector.[3] Sheriff Painter started the first still-functioning multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force in West Texas. He organized the Midland County Sheriff's Office Crisis Intervention Unit and worked to establish the Permian Basin Peace Officers Association, and was one of the founders of the organization "STAR", or Sheriffs of Texas Agreed Response.,[1] a tactical unit of deputies from some sixty counties organized like a "national guard". STAR was born amid the April 1997 standoff in Fort Davis, where Richard Lance "Rick" McLaren (born c. 1953), a leader of the right-wing Republic of Texas militia group, held two of his neighbors hostage for several days in a trailer park in the Davis Mountains before he agreed to surrender to state troopers.[4]

In 1990, after his first re-election, Painter pushed for construction of a new sheriff's office and detention facility, which relieved overcrowding at the then courthouse and spared the need to house surplus prisoners in other counties for a daily fee. He instituted many technological innovations, including the first, either locally or regionally:

In the 2008 primary election, Painter scored 90.29 percent of the ballots cast over fellow Republican Joe D. Lozano, Sr.[5] Lozano ran against Painter in the 2000 general election as an Independent and polled 18 percent of the vote.[6]

Other opponents who tried to derail Painter on alleged grounds of too much concentration on the war on drugs, ignoring the needs of Midland County, confiscation of drug money, and too many out-of-county arrest ventures were defeated time after time. Painter even managed to sink the re-nomination of a county judge and fellow Republican, Charles Wallis "Bro" Seltzer (born c. 1948), a Midland oil and natural gas attorney and reserve Air Force officer.[4]

Warning about terrorismEdit

In 2014, Painter gained national attention when he spoke out against the danger of ISIS terrorism along the border between the United States and Mexico. Painter said that law-enforcement personnel have received alerts of terrorist cells from Iraq and Syria entering through what he called the "wide open" border. "There is no control on the border, it's not shut off. There's places along the Rio Grande you can walk across, there's no water in it. I worked the border for eight years. I walked back and forth across the Rio Grande; ... Painter added.[7]

Painter continued:

I think it'd be naive to say that ISIS is not here … We have found Muslim clothing ... Quran books that are lying on the side of the trail, so we know that there are Muslims that have come across and are being smuggled into the United States."[7] Painter vowed to uncover any terrorist cells: "If they show their ugly head in our area, we'll send them to hell. ... And I think the United States needs to get busy. And they need to bomb them, they need to take them out."[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Gary Painter". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  2. ^ "Painter v. Shaner (1984)". April 4, 1984. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  3. ^ "History of the Office of Sheriff". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Nate Blakeslee (December 10, 1999). "The Law West of the Pecos". The Texas Observer. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  5. ^ Kathleen Thurber (November 28, 2011). "Midland County Sheriff Painter leads off filings for election to public office". Midland Reporter-Telegram. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  6. ^ "Midlanders begin casting early ballots for November 5 election". Midland Reporter-Telegram. October 21, 2002. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c "Texas Sheriff: Reports Warn of ISIS Terrorist Cells Coming Across the Border". CBS-TV in Houston, Texas. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
Preceded by
Dallas Smith
Sheriff of Midland County (based in Midland, Texas)

Gary Wayne Painter

Succeeded by