A native of the Southwest, Gary Tillery was born in Phoenix in 1947. In 1968-69 Tillery served in Vietnam with the United States Air Force. His enlistment over in 1970, he returned to Phoenix and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Arizona State University and a Master’s degree from the American Graduate School of International Management.
After two decades in the business world, primarily as co-owner of an advertising agency in suburban Chicago, Tillery turned his time and energy to his lifelong passion for literature and art. He published a collection of interrelated short stories set in Vietnam titled Darkling Plain, and began a series of humorous novels featuring "soft-boiled" detective Jack Savage—the first two titled Death, Be Not Loud and To An Aesthete Dying Young.
Tillery’s fascination with "the intellectual Beatle," John Lennon, led him to write The Cynical Idealist. This biography examines Lennon’s creative work and interviews to construct a coherent view of the philosophy Lennon originated and lived by—a philosophy that was idealistic yet pragmatic.
Tillery is also a professional sculptor. He favors the traditional mediums of metal and stone, though using them to express contemporary ideas. His most prominent work is the sculpture for the Vietnam Memorial in Chicago. He also created the bronze bust of Steve Allen for the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood; and through his association with the Rotblatt-Amrany Studio he created, among other works, the life-size bronze of Luis Aparicio at U. S. Cellular Field.
Tillery has displayed in galleries from Pennsylvania to New Mexico and appeared in shows as far away as Shanghai. His works are in the private collections of Patricia DuPont and General Tommy Franks, and the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago possesses two pieces in its permanent collection.