The sun shined brightly on the north courtyard at the Grayson County Courthouse Tuesday as friends, family and former constituents gathered to dedicate a bench to former Grayson County Sheriff Keith Gary.
Those who spoke at Tuesday’s brief ceremony praised Gary’s long service to the county and his dedication to public service. The bench that was dedicated was a donation to the county from the Grayson County Republican Party.
“This is just a wonderful day, the weather’s perfect, and the man is here,” Grayson County Republican Party Chairwoman Barbara Woodroof said in welcoming Gary, 83, to the event.
Before Gary served as the Grayson County sheriff from January 1997 until his retirement in August 2016. Current Sheriff Tom Watt, who won the office when Gary retired, said he couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition and that was due to Gary’s influence in the office.
“He was a gentleman, he was respectful, he was helpful and I was just amazed at what kind of a gentlemen he truly is,” Watt said. “It’s all about how much he cares about this community.”
Sherman attorney Clyde Siebman said Gary made his mark on the county at a time when Republicans were not anywhere near the majority in the county.
“Keith Gary blazed a road,” Siebman said. “And that road is a road that many of us have followed.”
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said Gary is often underestimated by people. He said everyone knows that Gary was a great lawman and public servant, but some don’t realize there’s more to him.
“He is one heck of a politician,” Magers said, adding Gary is a fiscal conservative who held the budget on the county’s biggest cost center — the jail — to a minimum each year.
As for the bench that was dedicated in Gary’s honor, Magers said there are only two on the north side of the county courthouse and each represents a man who has given 20 years of service to Grayson County. One is dedicated to retired Grayson County Judge Horace Groff, a Democrat, and the other to Gary, a Republican.
The former sheriff’s son, Brian Gary, who is the judge in the 397th state District Court, spoke on his father’s behalf.
“First of all, I want to thank the Republican Party and all of the donors who came up with the idea for the bench,” Brian Gary said, explaining that his father was in a wheelchair Tuesday because he continues to recover from a broken hip. “I know he would want to thank my mom for allowing him to be a public servant for over 50 years.”
Brian Gary said he didn’t know whether he would agree with Magers’ assertion that his father is a great politician.
“I have learned a lot from my dad being a public servant and just a servant leader,” Brian Gary said. “Bill can call him a good politician. I just call him a reasonable and fair-minded person who knows how to get things done. In this day and age, where we seem to have lost the ability to reason with one another and know when to draw a line and when to maybe give a little bit, somebody, in my opinion, like my dad and like Judge Groff in his day, who had the ability to reach across and find common ground with people and get things done for the betterment of your constituents, is something to be appreciated.”
Brian Gary added that his father was honored to serve Grayson County and honored by the people who showed to dedicate the bench on Tuesday.
In a previous presentation about the bench to the Grayson County Commissioners Court, Woodroof said the 48 inch long bench would be made of black granite with white lettering and include the years Gary served as sheriff in Grayson County.
She gave the court a primer on Gary’s service to the county, including the facts that he served as Grayson County Sheriff from 1997 to 2016 and as U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Texas from 1969 to 1977 and then again from 1987 to 1994.
“The interruption in the (marshal service) was due to a change in the administration in D.C.,” Woodroof said.
She said during the time between his stints as marshal, Gary obtained his master’s degree in criminal justice and served as a federal probation officer.
“He also served his country in the Air Force in the early 1960s,” Woodroof said before noting that Gary also played a key role in the formation of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Grayson County.