Charles L. Garrett —inventor, entrepreneur, treasure hunter, patriot, husband, and father—died on April 3, 2015. A native Texan and resident of Garland, Dr. Garrett and his wife Eleanor in 1964 founded Garrett Electronics which grew to become the world’s largest manufacturer of metal detection equipment.
Garrett detectors have discovered some of the world’s most valuable buried treasures, and its security equipment has protected millions of travelers and others, including Olympic athletes and spectators at the Games since 1984. Dr. Garrett was born in Houston on April 1, 1932, and grew up in Lufkin. After four years of service in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict on board the USS Bottineau (APA-235), he graduated from Lamar University in Beaumont with a degree in electrical engineering. A lifelong treasure-hunting hobbyist, Dr. Garrett first developed a metal detector for his own use and because it was so much superior to others, he and his wife founded a company to sell it.
He pioneered the development of the modern metal detector, demonstrated its capabilities searching for treasure throughout the world and devoted himself to teaching others to use detectors. He discovered treasure with metal detectors of his own design on every continent except Antarctica, and he also scanned under lakes, seas and oceans of the world. Many of the treasures and relics he discovered are displayed in the Garrett Museum at the company’s factory in Garland. In 1984 the company also began to manufacture walk-through and hand-held security detectors, including the famed Super Scanner®, the world’s most popular hand-held detector, and revolutionary new walk-through units. As a patriotic American, Dr. Garrett generously donated his company’s equipment for numerous projects where metal detection equipment was required, including many of the Olympic Games.
He authored some 20 books and wrote literally scores of articles about metal detectors, treasure hunting on both land and under water and security. Many of his books remain in print. Today, the name Garrett stands as a worldwide synonym for treasure hunting and security metal detectors. Charles himself has been called the Grand Master Hunter. Along the way, he also became recognized as an unofficial spokesman for the hobby of treasure hunting and the metal detecting industry through a long list of honors, personal appearances, books and articles. U.S. Representative Sam Johnson visited the Garrett factory in February 2010 to read and present to Dr. Garrett a copy of the Congressional Record in which he acknowledged the quality and determination of Garrett’s American-made products. Charles and Eleanor Garrett have been generous contributors to Lamar University and her alma mater, Sam Houston State University. Both have been granted honorary doctor’s degrees from these schools. Charles Garrett was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during Lamar’s spring commencement ceremonies in May 2011. The Charles and Eleanor Garrett Engineering Center was dedicated at Lamar University in April 2012.
Dr. Garrett was an Eagle Scout and an inductee into Eta Kappa Nu, the national Electrical and Computer Engineering honor society. In 2004, Governor Rick Perry commissioned Charles Garrett as an honorary Admiral in the Texas Navy. He was also a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas and was a Distinguished Alumni of both Lufkin High School and Lamar University.
Survivors include his wife of almost 60 years, Eleanor; three children, Charles Lewis Garrett, Jr., Deirdre Lynne Garrett Hasselbach and her husband Timothy of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Vaughan Lamar Garrett, his wife, Angela, and their two children, David and Sydney. Dr. Garrett was a member of the Saturn Road Church of Christ. Dr. Garrett was preceded in death by his parents, Wayne L. and Stella Barber Garrett; and his brothers, George Wayne Garrett and Donald Bert Garrett.
Visitation will be at Sparkman Crane Funeral Home in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, April 10, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. A memorial service will be held at Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, at 2:00 pm on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Graveside services will be conducted at 3:00 pm on Sunday, April 12, at Calvary Cemetery in Trinity County, Texas, east of Crockett on FM 357. In lieu of flowers, anyone desiring to make a donation can do so in memory of Charles Garrett to: Lamar University Foundation, P.O. Box 11500, Beaumont, Texas, 77710.