Jack Colley, head of emergency management for the Texas Department of Public Safety, died of a heart attack Sunday, the department announced this morning. He was 62 and had worked at the agency for more than 12 years.
"Jack was a great Texan, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw.
"Jack Colley did more to keep Texans safe over the past eight years than anyone will ever know," said Gov. Rick Perry. "Every Texan who evacuated a hurricane impact zone, watched airplanes douse a wildfire or got clear instructions on how to avoid the H1N1 virus should pause and offer a prayer of thanks for this remarkable man."
Colley led the state's emergency response to some of Texas' largest disasters, including the Space Shuttle Columbia crash in 2003, Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. He also coordinated sheltering efforts for thousands of evacuees who fled to Texas after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Colley served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1997 and retired as a colonel before joining DPS. He graduated from the U.S. Army War College and the Command and General Staff College. He earned a bachelor’s degree from East Texas State University in Commerce (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) and a master’s in business from Abilene Christian University.
UPDATE: Other elected officials released statements.
Sen. John Cornyn:
“Jack Colley’s passing is a tremendous loss for the State of Texas. He was a devoted public servant who for years dedicated himself to keeping Texans informed, connected and safe during some of our state’s most tragic and dangerous natural disasters. My staff and I have relied heavily on Jack’s accurate, diligent and detailed reports during my time in public office. As hurricanes approached our coast or tornadoes touched down in the plains, it was Jack Colley’s even, collected voice that brought a sense of order and calm to an anxious public. My thoughts and prayers are with the Colley family as they mourn the loss of their loved one and this fine public servant whose work has kept millions of Texans out of harm’s way.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:
"No disaster was too big for Jack Colley to protect Texans from harm. He was a one-of-a-kind leader whose dedication to the people of Texas and commitment to public safety saved countless lives. But Jack's greatest legacy to Texas won't just be the emergency responses hedirected, it is the high standard he has set for the Division of Emergency Management and its ability to continue with its critical missions. Jack will be greatly missed and I ask all Texans to join me in sending their thoughts and prayers to the Colley family."