Regardless of whether Jack Wilson considers himself a hero, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday it’s inarguable the church security chief saved lives when a gunman opened fire last month during Sunday services at a house of worship.
When the shooter opened fire, killing two parishioners in the West Freeway Church of Christ sanctuary, Wilson ended the incident as quickly as it began. As most churchgoers took cover between the pews, Wilson pulled out a handgun, assumed a shooting stance and dropped the gunman with a single round.
It was that quick action that earned him the Governor’s Medal of Courage, the state’s highest civilian award – even if the 71-year-old doesn’t find his own actions extraordinary.
“Yes, I’ve been handed the moniker of a hero, and as I’ve stated a couple of times already, I feel more as a protector than I do a hero because I did lose two real good friends,” Wilson said upon Abbott draping the medal over his neck at a ceremony outside the governor’s mansion.
Wearing a black cowboy hat, Wilson continued, “When events arise, you’re going to do one of two things: You’re either going to step up and do what’s right or walk away, and I’m not one to walk away – not from this or anything else.”
The friends who Wilson lost were church deacon Tony Wallace, 64, of Fort Worth, and Richard White, 67, of River Oaks, a volunteer on the church’s security team.
“Although we continue to mourn the loss of Tony Wallace and Rich White, we also thank God for putting Jack Wilson in that church that day to bring the attack to an end,” Abbott said. “You put your life on the line to ensure others would live. That is the hallmark of heroism and of courage.”
It’s unclear how many people were inside the church at the time, but senior minister Britt Farmer told CNN that Sunday services at West Freeway Church of Christ typically draw about 280 congregants. During Monday’s ceremony, Farmer accepted from Abbott a Texas flag that had flown over the Capitol.
“Only God knows who is alive today because of Jack Wilson,” the governor said. “What we do know is that so many lives were saved because of Jack Wilson’s quick action, his calmness under pressure and, above all else, his courage and his willingness to risk his own life to save the lives of others.”
Wilson has experience with both weapons and law enforcement. He also delved into politics last year, announcing his candidacy for a seat on the Hood County Commissioners’ Court.
“My understanding is he was a reserve deputy and had significant training, had his own shooting range, had taught other people how to shoot, had taught many people in this church how to be prepared,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters at a news conference following the shooting. “He’s not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved the lives of maybe hundreds of people, but he’s also responsible for training hundreds in that church.”
No matter Wilson’s preferred title, Monday’s honor will ensure that Texans remember him for the courage he displayed that Sunday morning.
“When faced with an evil that few of us could ever comprehend,” Abbott said at the ceremony, “Jack WIlson responded with strength, with bravery and with love for those in the church that day. That is the type of man Jack Wilson is.”