It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Charles Wilson Painter, Charlie, on 12 May 2015. Charlie has been near the hub, if not the hub, of herpetology in New Mexico since the mid 1980’s. Charlie was born on 23 February 1949, and grew up in Arkansas and Louisiana. His passion for herpetology manifested early, and it stuck with him throughout his life. When Charlie wasn’t working on herpetology, he was wishing he was. Even during his service in the US Army in South Korea, Charlie amassed a collection of over 1,500 specimens of amphibians and reptiles.
He obtained his MS in Biology in 1976 for research based on an inventory of amphibians and reptiles of Colima, Mexico. After continuing graduate studies at University of New Mexico, Charlie conducted inventory and monitoring studies of amphibians and reptiles of the Gila and San Francisco river drainages in New Mexico. In 1985 Charlie began his career as the first state herpetologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, He held that position for more than 28 years, retiring in December 2013. Tireless energy, inclusive collaboration, and staunch defense of New Mexico’s amphibians and reptiles are the hallmarks of Charlie’s career at NMDGF.
Among his greatest achievements were his leadership to produce “Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico”, which he co-authored with William Degenhardt and Andrew Price (1996), ushering legislation on “Regulation of Commercial Trade of Amphibians and Reptiles [220.127.116.11 NMAC-N, 31 October 2001], and publishing more than 80 articles, reports and other scholarly works on many species of amphibians and reptiles. He was recognized as Wildlife Professional of the Year multiple times, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gila Natural History of the Gila Symposium, and in 2013, Charlie was awarded the Alison Haskell Award for Excellence in Herpetofaunal Conservation by PARC.
Amphibians and reptiles were not the only beneficiaries of Charlie’s energy. He cared about people more than he cared about herps, and encouraged numerous young students of herpetology to not give up and to follow their dreams. Charlie connected people professionally as well as personally, and was key in establishing connections among herpetologists within New Mexico and across the country. He truly was the nexus of New Mexico Herpetology.
Charles W. Painter is survived by his loving wife and partner in herpetology, Lori King Painter, his daughter, Ashley Painter, stepdaughter Kelly Senyé, and all the friends that have been so lucky to revel in his energy. We will profoundly miss him. We count ourselves lucky to now bask in our memories of Charles W. Painter.
A memorial grant is in development, with details forthcoming, for which donations will be accepted to continue Charlie’s legacy in supporting students pursuing their passion in Herpetology.