Keith Gary, Grayson County Sheriff for four terms died early Friday morning, at the age of 84. State District Judge Brian Gary said of his father’s passing, “he died “peacefully in his sleep at Wilson N. Jones.”

Gary retired as sheriff in 2016. Before running for sheriff, he served the area for 18 years as U.S. Marshall for the Eastern District of Texas.

“He was one of the most pleasant people to be around you will ever meet,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Joe Brown said of Gary Friday morning. “Just a real gentleman. He was an excellent law man —tough when needed to be. But what set him apart was really the way he interacted with people. You just enjoyed talking to him,” Brown added.

Brown said Gary’s leadership skills weren’t limited to his work at the Sheriff’s Office. He was also a leader in the local Republican Party.

“He paved the way for many others who came behind him, when he ran as a Republican in a county that had elected Democrats for decades,” Brown said.

He said, “Gary was very principled in his beliefs, and stood up for what he believed.”

Gary took office as Sheriff in January 1997 and retired from the office in August 2016. Gary was born in Laredo and graduated from Harlandale High School in San Antonio. He served in the U.S Air Force and retired as a staff Sgt. He married Uva Mae Thompson in 1956. They had two children, Brian and Bebe. Keith Gary started his 46-year law enforcement career when he was appointed under President Richard Nixon for the U.S. Marshal over 43 counties of the Eastern District of Texas in 1968. Then when the political climate shifted, Gary lost that position so he became a federal probation officer in Corpus Christi.

Gary was sent to open the first federal probation office in Grayson County in 1980, and that’s where he stayed.

Under President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Gary was reappointed marshal for the same district, where he served until retirement in 1994. In 1996, Gary decided to run as sheriff and worked for the county probation office until he became the sheriff. Law enforcement credentials from the University of North Texas Police Academy and The National Sheriff’s Institute at Longmont, Colorado.

Gary earned under graduates degrees ar Lamar Unitsity and Excelsior College the he received a M.A. from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Current Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt followed Gary into the office of sheriff.

“Sheriff Gary was a man of honor, grace and integrity. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to prepare me to be the Sheriff of Grayson County,” Watt said Friday. “One of the things that struck me about Sheriff Gary when I came to work for him as his Chief Deputy was just how passionate he was about his employees. Our first discussion was all about the strengths of key individuals here at the Sheriff’s Office. He wanted me to know that I would be making a mistake if I replaced them when he left office. Though it was a light-hearted conversation, he was working hard for his people. Of course, I took his advice and left all of his personnel in place.”

Friday as news of Gary’s death began to spread social media posts from those who had worked with him or known him started to surface.

Grayson County Justice of the Peace Rita Noel posted that Gary believed in her and gave her a job. She said his Spanish language skills were so good that they could hold and entire conversation in the language and she will miss him greatly. His long-time assistant Kathy Aaron-Ranor also posted about his death. “I can personally say he he was an amazing man, a man of integrity, a man of God, a man who dearly loved his family and a man who loved people.”

He is survived by his wife, his children, five grandchildren, a step-brother and a niece and nephew.