By Charles Don Flores
“Walk with me Lord, walk with me walk with me Lord, walk with me while I’m on this Christian journey I want Jesus to walk with me!”
–Worship song sung by men in the faith-based program on Texas’s death row
Gary Raynard Green was one of my closest friends and a man who I called brother. On March 7, 2023, he was executed in Huntsville by the State of Texas. Like the vast majority of men, Gary was on Texas’s death row for the very worst day of his life. I learned long ago to not ask about another man’s case here because I might hear something that will change my thought on an individual. As a general rule, when a prisoner arrives on death row the slate is wiped clean. This isn’t general population where you serve your sentence then leave. The State of Texas is trying to murder every one of us on death row. So it doesn’t matter if you were a former police officer, TDCJ prison guard, one who harmed children, or someone actually innocent, you get a fresh start here.
Gary was from Dallas, which gave us something in common and more often than not, when “doing time”, you become friends with guys who are from your hometown. I met Gary when he was first sent to Texas death row but it was a while before we were housed in the same section, which allowed us to go outside for recreation together. Outside rec is the only “private” setting we have here. We’re locked in side-by-side outdoor recreation yards and no one is out there except us. This is how I truly met Gary Green. We began to chat and I liked him right away. He was funny, charismatic and a great storyteller. He had a deep bass voice and a great laugh and he began to tell me a story. In the beginning, I did not know where this story might end up. Most times guys will tell old war stories about adventures they had when free. But Gary’s story was different. The story he told me was the story of the series of events that led him to be sent to death row. When he was done, I couldn’t believe he had the courage to tell me that story, which was the absolute worst day of his life. I say he had “courage” because what would it take for YOU to tell someone you just met your deepest darkest most terrible secret? The thing nobody knows about except you. Everyone has one, including the people reading this.
Gary told me his story himself to lay it before us and let me decide if I was going to be his friend or judge him not worthy of friendship because of what happened to him on the worst day of his life. I try very hard not to judge anyone. I know what it’s like to be judged and I wasn’t going to do that to him. From that day forward, me and Gary were true friends. He proved to be loyal, faithful, and a true brother from another mother, someone I could always count on in an hour of need. In 2015, Gary began to practice Buddhism. In 2018, I was moved to a different pod and we were separated. In November 2021, I was moved to the faith-based program and to my great surprise and joy, Gary Green was put in the cell next to me! We were part of our brotherhood here, he was one of the guys I could count on to lead a song, say a prayer or share a word. It was here that Gary rededicated his life to the Lord and was baptized here on what we now call “life row.” I was honored and overjoyed to have been part of that great event in his life.
His baptism was attended by Warden Dickerson and the chaplain. It was video recorded and is supposed to be on the Polunsky Unit’s radio station website (Tank Nation). Gary’s favorite worship song was, “Walk With Me Lord”. He loved to sing it slow, gospel style so you’d feel it in your soul. The day he was baptized, when he come back to our housing section soaking wet, we all began to sing to him, ” Walk with me Lord! Walk with me!” And as he turned the corner, he was singing at the top of his lungs with us. What a glorious day, Hallelujah! Gary Green was part of the revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit that’s continuing. Where people who were once dead spiritually are coming to life in the Lord Jesus Christ. When Gary turned his life over to the Lord, he called home and told his parents about his decision. His dad starter hollering and praising God! “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! My boy has come home! praise Jesus!” That is who Gary Green became at the end of his life. Everything changed in September 2022, when Gary as given an execution date and was ripped away from the Texas death row faith-based program and moved to “death watch.” The day he was moved, I was in the day room and when Gary came out of his cell I reached through the bars and hugged him and told him I loved him. He also told me that he loved me too. That was the only time I ever hugged my brother in over a decade. Gary lived his last 6 months of his life on death watch. I was able to get to death watch a few times and talk to him and he had his good days and bad days. Being torn away from our brotherhood, from him being able to worship and sing with us, really took a toll on him. Isolating Gary after he’d found his place in the faith-based program was torture for him. He did the best he could and somehow held it together.
On March 7,2023, the last day of Gary’s life he began singing at 5 am. From his cell in A-section we heard his booming voice, “Walk with me Lord walk with me!” As he sang, we joined him from our section. After we sang his song, Gary said, “There’s too many of y’all to name individually, but each one of you have been a true blessing in my life and I hope I’ve been a blessing in yours.” We all expressed our love for him and told him to keep strong and continue to walk with the Lord.
When Gary left 12 building for his final visit, he shouted his good byes, and we did the same. And as he walked out he broke out in song, “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made! ” I had my brother on my mind when an escort team came to take my neighbor to a visit. One officer is a guy I get along well with, and I asked him how was Gary when he left for Huntsville at noon? He said that Gary was good. He was singing when he left, “walk with me Lord walk with me!” I was relieved to hear that Gary was able to go to his death with such peace and dignity. Believe me, when I say that singing that song, “Walk With Me Lord”, was what gave my brother the wherewithal to walk to his death.
By 7pm my Christian brother Gary Raynard Green was no longer among the living and had been executed.
On March 9,2023, another execution was scheduled. Authur Brown Jr. would also be pushed out of existence by the State of Texas. I was having a very difficult time that day having lost Gary and now Authur. So I decided to stop focusing on death and think of my loved ones instead. I sent an eMessage to my attorney expressing some of what I felt. My usual way of dealing with pain and grief is humor and laughter with those I care for the most. I let her know it had been a hard week for us, losing Gary had been really hard and I was glad to be able to see her at visit on March 10th. She asked me what was Gary’s favorite song–which was her way of asking me to sing it.
That Friday, March 10,2023, I went to legal visit and saw my attorney Gretchen. We talked about my stuff and then the conversion turned to Gary. I sang his favorite song for her in the visitation booth. As I sang it, I closed my eyes and I thought about my brother and in my mind. I could see his hands cuffed behind his back, walking out of the visitation room down that long covered walkway with a team of officers dressed in riot gear and a gaggle of TDCJ officials trailing him. As he walked to that van that would take him to his planned execution, I now knew he had been singing that song, “WALK WITH ME LORD! WALK WITH ME! WALK WITH ME LORD! WALK WITH ME! WHILE I’M ON THIS CHRISTIAN JOURNEY I WANT JESUS TO WALK WITH ME!” I knew that song, that praise to the Almighty, was what gave Gary the strength to keep his head up. After I sang it to Gretchen, I told her about Gary and that he was singing that song as he left. I then became overwhelmed with emotion. I could not continue, all I could say was that the situation was hard. When I opened my eyes, I could see that she was also tearing up. This is why I care about her so much. She loves us all no matter what sent you here she cares like few people do and that’s why I love her greatly. We got through the visit and I come back to my cell and I’ve been thinking about that experience ever since.
Gary Raynard Green was a Christian and his salvation secure. And the steps that he took here on the faith-based program were steps on a journey that will last for an eternity. Brother Gary is in a better place now, and I know when I get there I’ll hear him singing, Walk with me Lord, walk with me, walk with me Lord walk with me!
We love you and moved miss you, brother. God Bless you.