Gary E. Brown of Visalia, whose long career in law enforcement included turns as police chief in Chowchilla and other cities in California and Oregon, died Wednesday at his home in Visalia following a long illness. He was 76.
In addition to his professional interests, Mr. Brown was well-regarded throughout the western U.S. in the cultures of cowboy poetry and cowboy music, displaying some of his considerable collection of old-time Hollywood Western movie memorabilia at Mavericks Coffee House in Visalia, run by his son, Jordan Brown of Visalia.
Brown announced his father’s passing on the Mavericks Facebook page in a post early Thursday morning: “The motivation behind me opening Mavericks went to be with the Lord last night. For those who didn’t know Gary Brown you missed out on quite a spectacular man,” he wrote. “He will be remembered as police chief, promoter, producer, DJ, and cowboy enthusiast and collector, but to me he will always be dad.”
Mr. Brown, a native of Missouri, began his police career in 1960 as a police officer in Garden Grove, and later served as a sergeant in Carpinteria.
He also served as a special agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence, a crime studies analyst with the state Department of Justice and a criminal justice consultant with a Bay Area research consulting firm before he was hired by the city of Chowchilla as chief of police from 1972 to 1976 – a period in which he also served at times as the interim city administrator.
He was very level-headed, one of those quick-to-listen, slow-to-speak people.
Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney about the late Gary Brown
He and his wife Sherrill were married 44 years.
After his time in Chowchilla, Mr. Brown worked as police chief in South Pasadena, San Clemente and Ashland, Ore.
He also worked as a recruitment consulting executive in the mid-1980s, and served as Visalia’s deputy city manager for public safety from 1989 to 1992.
He retired in 2001 from his post as police chief in Monterey, bringing an end to his law enforcement career. He continued working as an executive recruiter for another 10 years.
Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney, who was the police chief in Chowchilla from 2004 to 2014, knew Mr. Brown since 1999 and considered him a professional mentor. Varney met Mr. Brown through leadership institute seminars at Hume Lake and sought his advice as he applied for the chief’s position in Chowchilla.
“He was very level-headed, one of those quick-to-listen, slow-to-speak people,” Varney said. “But when he was called upon, he had a well-reasoned answer for things. … He was real good at figuring people out and where your skills would fit in. And if he felt I wasn’t a fit, he would have found a cowboy-gentlemanly kind of way to let you know that, too.”
Mr. Brown was an active member of the California Police Chiefs Association. The association recognized him in 2003 with its Joe Molloy Memorial Award, established to recognize police chiefs for outstanding professionalism and dedication.
On its Facebook page, the Monterey Police Department lamented the death of its former chief. “For those of us that knew him, he was kind, caring, empathetic, and cared about all members of society. He loved police work and his family.”
He will be remembered as police chief, promoter, producer, DJ, and cowboy enthusiast and collector.
Jordan Brown in a Facebook post about his late father, Gary Brown
In an announcement of his death to its members, the police chiefs association said that Mr. Brown “was passionate about his faith, family and in preserving the memory of the cowboy way of life.”
At various times during and after his law enforcement career, Mr. Brown hosted a cowboy radio show, founded cowboy music festivals and produced cowboy music. “And he would let you know that ‘cowboy music’ is not the same as ‘country music,’ ” Varney said.
A 2014 story in The Bee reported that Mr. Brown began collecting cowboy movie posters as a means of stress relief, eventually growing the hobby into establishing cowboy culture festivals, including a cowboy poetry event in Visalia. He also wrote articles and lectured on old-time Hollywood Western movies.
Mr. Brown also hosted cowboy culture performances at the coffeehouse. In 2014, the Western Music Association presented him with its Pioneer Trail Award, recognizing his contributions to advancing cowboy and western music and culture, and its Curly Musgrave Silver Buckle Award, given to recipients who embody “cowboy” values of honesty, loyalty and integrity.
Mr. Brown was active for years with Pointman Ministries, a global ministry of law enforcement professionals with Christian outreach to countries such as Russia, Bolivia and China.
- Born: Nov. 2, 1939
- Died: March 16, 2016
- Home: Visalia
- Occupation: Retired police chief (Chowchilla and other cities in California and Oregon)
- Survivors: Wife Sherrill Brown of Visalia; sons Matt, Travis and Jordan Brown of Visalia; seven grandchildren
- Services: 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, at Visalia Calvary Chapel, 11720 Avenue 264, Visalia