By DAVID SWEARINGEN
EDITOR’S NOTE: Residents of Erath County are very fortunate to have many men and women who make living here safe, many of whom are volunteers. They are Hometown Heroes! These people keep us safe and we owe them our thanks and our respect. THANK YOU!
STEPHENVILLE (October 29, 2016) – In this edition of The Flash Today’s Hometown Hero we are honoring Department of Public Safety Highway Sr. Trooper and Public Information Officer, Earl “Dub” Gillum.
Currently holding the rank of Staff Sergeant, Gillum was born in Austin in August 1963 and grew up in there, graduating from David Crockett High School in 1981. He later graduated from the University of Texas in 1985. Gillum has been married to Karen for 30 years and they currently reside in Granbury. They have two daughters and two grandsons.
Gillum has been a highway patrolman for 26 years, but has held a few other positions before choosing this life. He once worked for an oil company in Oklahoma and a security company in Austin. He also once held a job where he led bicycle tours, which started at the top of the Haleakala Volcano (on the island of Maui in Hawaii with an elevation of just over 10,000 ft.) and ended up 28 miles later at the beach. Gillum also has taught self defense classes.
As a Texas Highway Patrolman, he received his training at the DPS Academy in Austin. Gillum recalled he became a highway patrolman at the same time his current friend and coworker, Trooper Kenneth Bratton, also started with the department.
Gillum’s typical work day is a 10-hour day, but, as with most law enforcement officers, he is always on call. He said one of his favorite things about the job is the fact he gets to “wear many hats.” He is the Public Information & Safety Education Officer of the department. And besides patrolling the highways, Gillum is the guy in the department usually deals with the media and/or press, like The Flash reporters. For example, he is tasked with the duty of relaying any needed information to the appropriate state departments if there is ever a danger or a need at Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant.
In his off time, Gillum likes to spend time with his grandkids and travel with wife, Karen. He is a big Texas Rangers fan and has been working with the Arlington Police Department at some of the Rangers home games for 14 years. He is the current President of the Granbury Optimist Club and he and his wife attend the Stonewater Church in Granbury.
Gillum also volunteers with the DPS Memorial Ride, a fundraiser for the DPS Disability Fund, which offers financial assistance to all active DPS officers and their families in instances where insurance fails to cover. This fund was also recently used for two wounded DPS officers involved in a west Texas shootout. To learn more about this event, go to www.dpsride.org.
One event Gillum survived which changed his life completely – he was shot 10 times.
On October 1, 1998, Gillum was patrolling Highway 377 near Granbury when he observed a reckless driver who was also speeding – doing 85 mph in a 55 mph zone. Gillum stopped the motorist – 23-year-old Charlie Edward Cook, a wanted felon with 7 outstanding felony warrants and a known user of methamphetamine.
Without getting out of his pickup truck, Cook fired at Gillum, hitting him 10 times. The first shot struck Gillum’s hat above the forehead, the second shot hit him in the left temple and entered the nasal cavity where it exploded and shredded his right eye. The third, fourth and fifth shots struck Gillum in his left forearm. The sixth and seventh shots entered Gillum’s left hip, and finally, the eighth, ninth and tenth shots were to his back. Gillum credits the bulletproof vest he was wearing that night with saving his life.
The shot to the temple immediately blinded him, so Gillum was unable to return fire and fell to the hard surface of 377. Cook immediately sped away and two vehicles had to swerve to avoid hitting the trooper as he bleeding lay on the highway. A third vehicle, driven by Greg Chapman, witnessed the shooting and stopped his pickup truck and trailer to block the traffic until the ambulance was able to arrive.
While lying there, Gillum used his handheld radio to call for backup. The Fort Worth Canine Tactical Unit, along with Texas Ranger Joe Hudson, tracked the shooter to a wooded area in Fort Worth where Cook fired at authorities injuring the K-9 Officer, Brad Thompson, and killing canine, Argo, who had been taken out of retirement to assist with this chase. Officer Thompson returned fire, killing Cook. While on the run from the law, Cook had called his father and told him he had shot and killed a highway patrolman. This was more than likely the cause of Cook’s father having a heart attack.
In an amazing twist of fate, the elder Cook ended up in the Fort Worth hospital room right next to Gillum. The father did improve and was later released. Thompson earned his third Medal of Valor with the Fort Worth Police Department for his actions that night.
Gillum was taken to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth where he stayed for the next two weeks. He was off duty for a total of 14 months and went through 10 different eye surgeries to retain his sight. Gillum credits the Good Lord, his wife and his mother with the gift of eyesight today. His wife and mother were at his bedside for the entire two weeks, constantly changing the cold compress on his eyes. He said they rotated these compresses every 5 – 10 minutes during that first two weeks. He is grateful to God, his family, friends and the wonderful surgeons for his miraculous recovery.
Interestingly enough, Karen became a nurse stating if she could ‘nurse Dub back to health, she could definitely handle being a nurse.’ Gillum still has three of those bullets in his body – located in his right knee, his left arm and his forehead. During the 14 months Gillum was off work, he helped to raise money for the purchase of a canine to replace Argo. The replacement was named Arco.
Earlier this month, Gillum was assisting stranded motorist, Paul Lilly, with a flat tire when the man said he felt very tired. Lilly was resting in the front passenger seat while Gillum changed his tire when the trooper heard Lilly shout out. Gillum ran up to see Lilly had thrown up and was unconscious. Immediately clearing his airways and calling for an ambulance, Gillum was able to save the man’s life. In the seven minutes it took the ambulance to arrive, Lilly threw up and lost consciousness two more times. So, Gillum cleared his airways three separate times and kept Lilly rolled on his side.
As it turned out, Lilly was suffering from diastolic heart failure and if not for Gillum’s actions, Lilly would not have lived. Later, Gillum found out Paul Lilly is the Chief of Police for Howard Payne University in Brownwood. And, in the time after the shooting in 1998, Lilly’s fiance at the time had been saying prayers for Gillum. As they say, “it is a small world.”
Gillum said his current position as Public Information & Safety Education Officer is a perfect fit for him because he has a strong passion for youth. He spends time talking and visiting with children about the dangers of drug abuse and has educated the public about the proper use and installation of car seats while personally inspecting over 10,000 child car seats.
When asked about his many experiances with the Texas DPS, Trooper Gillum gave the following quote with a smile, “Life is simple – when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”
THANK YOU, Trooper Dub Gillum, for all you do to keep the community safe and to make this world a better place!