AUSTIN — Each day, over 550 Texas game wardens dedicate themselves to protecting the state’s natural resources. It’s a legacy they’ve carried on since game wardens first enforced resource conservation laws in the Lone Star State prior to the turn of the 20th century.
Texas game wardens also help to keep their communities safe, patrol the state’s vast waterways, and respond to natural disasters.
A ceremony honoring the 19 Texas game wardens who lost their lives in the line of duty will be held Friday, May 18, at 10 a.m. in the Memorial Plaza at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
“This memorial service is a stark reminder of the dangers Texas game wardens face every day while protecting our incredibly valuable natural resources, responding to natural disasters, and helping to keep Texans safe on our waterways,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. “We will never forget the sacrifice made by these game wardens, other peace officers, and their families throughout Texas and across the country.”
Following is a list of Texas game wardens who died in the line of duty, and the circumstances surrounding their deaths:
Joe Williams and Harry Raymond — Both officers were washed away in a hurricane in 1919 while trying to reach their boat RELIANCE in Aransas Bay to put out more anchors.
Dawson Richard Murchison — While patrolling for poaching activities on the King Ranch in 1938, was murdered by a poacher near the site currently known as Murchison Lake. The lake is near the county line between Kleberg and Jim Wells counties. The murderer fled into Mexico and was never brought to trial.
R.M. Wynne — Was killed in a car accident near Amarillo in 1948.
Gus Engeling — A warden and a biologist, Engeling was murdered by a duck poacher in Anderson County in 1951 near the current site of the wildlife management area that bears his name. The poacher was apprehended, convicted of murder and executed.
Claude Keller — Was killed in a plane crash in 1956 while patrolling the Laguna Madre for illegal netting activities.
J.D. Murphree — Was murdered by a duck poacher in Jasper County in 1963. The murderer was apprehended, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison.
Joe Evans — Was killed in a car accident while patrolling in Young County in 1965.
Lloyd Gustin — Drowned on Somerville Lake in 1968 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat he was riding in capsized and sank.
Ronnie Germany — Was murdered by a poacher in San Augustine County in 1973 while patrolling a remote river bottom area. The poacher was caught, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison.
James Daughtrey — Was killed in a head-on collision with suspected night hunters while patrolling near the Nueces River in McMullen County in 1978.
James Birmingham — Suffered a fatal heart attack October 12, 1988 while patrolling the bays near Port O’Conner.
Barry Decker and Bruce Hill — Both officers drowned while on patrol on Lake Murvaul in Panola County in 1990.
Mike Pauling — Stopped to offer roadside assistance in Port Arthur in 2001. A driver sped off with Pauling partially inside his vehicle, and the warden was thrown to the roadway and killed. The driver was convicted of aggravated assault on a public servant; he was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Wes Wagstaff — Was killed in a head-on collision while responding to an Operation Game Thief call in Hardin County on August 5, 2003.
Justin Hurst — Killed by gunfire while apprehending a poacher in Wharton County in 2007. The murderer was apprehended, convicted of capital murder and executed.
Teyran (Ty) Patterson — Drowned May 30, 2007 while attempting to recover the body of a drowning victim from the Paluxy River.
George Harold Whatley, Jr. — Suffered a fatal heart attack October 10, 2008 while participating in a required physical fitness assessment at Fort Stockton High School.
More information about the Texas Game Warden Memorial is available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/warden/connect/memorial .