Former Troop B commander Jack Lawliss dies at 86

Maj. John “Jack” Lawliss is pictured while commander of State Police Troop B. His State Police career spanned from 1955 to 1989. He later served as Clinton County sheriff from January 1999 to December 2002. (Provided photo — New York State Police)

PLATTSBURGH — Former New York State Police Troop B Commander and Clinton County Sheriff John “Jack” Lawliss passed away late Sunday.

He was 86 years old.

“He was the epitome of a public servant,” said former Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru. “He cared about people, he cared about what he was doing and he cared about his friends.”

An illustrious career

After serving in the U.S. Navy from July 1951 to January 1955, Lawliss began his career with State Police on Oct. 1, 1955, as a trooper first in Troop B Headquarters in Malone before being stationed in Tupper Lake a month later, State Police said.

He went on to serve as a trooper in a variety of Troop B locations including Long Lake, Gouverneur, Morristown, Canton, Port Henry and Massena.

After serving in several Troop T locations, he became a sergeant and served at Chazy in April 1964 until making investigator and serving in Plattsburgh and Malone from September 1966 to April 1970.

Lawliss made the rank of lieutenant in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in April 1970 and served in Syracuse, Albany and Malone, also serving in the Special Investigations Unit and Organized Crime Task Force while lieutenant.

Lawliss then attained the rank of captain in October 1978 and was stationed at troop headquarters in Malone. He retained that rank when headquarters moved to Ray Brook in April 1980.

Finally, Lawliss assumed Troop B’s command as major in December of 1983, a position he held until retiring in January 1989.

“He did not want to retire,” Duprey said. “He was still ready to keep on going if he could have.”

During his tenure, State Police said, Lawliss was involved in several high-profile cases around the state including the search for serial killer Robert Garrow and an investigation into a stolen Rembrandt painting taken from Rochester that ended up in Clinton County in 1968.

After a 10-year departure from law enforcement, he returned to the field as Clinton County sheriff, a position he held from January 1999 to December 2002.

A decent man

Former Clinton County legislator and legislature chairman Jimmy Langley remembers Lawliss as a good man, and got to work with him when Lawliss was sheriff.

“It was very much like working with a friend, but he always knew where friendship ended and business began,” Langley said. “We weren’t always in agreement, but we always respected each other.”

Lawliss was a fatherly mentor to Langley, he said, who watched him and helped guide him through the years.

“He said what he meant and he meant what he said,” Langley said. “I always looked forward to his visits; he always had such an outlook on life, and great wisdom.”

Duprey said she also often went to Lawliss for advice during her 41 years in office.

“Just seeing him, and being around Jack made me feel good,” Duprey said. “We hadn’t had lunch together lately, but it was always a highlight when we did.”

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to see him one last time.

“I think the last words he said to me was he wanted us to have one more lunch,” Duprey said.


Lawliss is survived by his wife, Gail Lawliss, his sons Timothy and Michael Lawliss, his daughters Anne Folley and Brenda Martin, his brother Russell Lawliss and his sister Patricia Snow, as well as numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There will be no calling hours preceding Lawliss’ funeral. His burial will be held on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Church in Peru. Military honors will follow in the church, where masks and social distancing will be mandatory.


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