Monday, February 18, 2008

The Passing of Giants

I have two sad sad pieces of news for you today, the passing of two legends, Grits Gresham and Ray Chapman.

Grits, maybe the best-known and most celebrated outdoor writer and television personality, died today at the age of 85. Here is a portion of his obituary from NSSF:
Gresham served as field host and producer for "The American Sportsman" television series on the ABC network, host of "Shooting Sports America" on ESPN, was shooting editor of Sports Afield magazine for 26 years, and was published in such wide-ranging magazines as Sports Illustrated and Gentleman's Quarterly. He authored eight books, but may be best known for his role in the series of commercials for Miller Lite beer. Gresham was the fisherman among the athletes who made "Tastes Great, Less Filling" marketing buzzwords for more than a decade.

Grits traveled the world for his work, and he particularly enjoyed his many trips to various African countries as well as fishing and hunting in South America. . He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.

A tireless worker for conservation, he was one of the first public voices bringing attention to the loss of wetlands along the Louisiana coastline, an area where he did much of his graduate work while at LSU.

Gresham's books include "The Complete Book of Bass Fishing," "Fishes and Fishing In Louisiana," "Fishing and Boating in Louisiana," "The Sportsman and his Family Outdoors," The Complete Wildfowler," "Grits on Guns," and "Weatherby: The Man, The Gun, The Legend."

One of Gresham's proudest moments as an outdoor journalist came during an interview with President Ronald Regan. The President shared with Grits a story no one in the national media had heard, that when he was a broadcaster in Des Moines, Iowa, Regan had used a Colt pistol to save a nurse from a mugging on the street. After the story broke, the nurse came forward and confirmed the tale, although she did not know until then that the young man who had saved her with a gun so many years before had turned out to be the famous actor and United States President.
Grits was, of course, the father of my dear friend Tom Gresham; I onced asked Tom how cool was it to be Grits Gresham's kid. "You can't imagine!" he said.

My friend Ray Chapman, one of the fathers of modern pistolcraft, died on 2 February in Austin. Ray was, of course, the founder of teh Chapman Academy in Columbia, MO, which, along with Jeff Cooper's API in Arizona, helped define the use of the handgun. Here's a bit of his obituary:
A Patron member of the National Rifle Association, Mr. Chapman served as a Marine during WWII seeing action in the Pacific theater island campaigns and again during the early stages of the Korean Conflict. After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, he worked as a fireman in Oregon while completing his education. Upon receiving a degree in Civil Engineering, Ray moved to California and began a career with State of California Highway Department, and also worked part time as a police officer. It was while he was in California that he became acquainted with the Southwest Pistol League, and began to hone the shooting skills that would culminate in his winning the First World Combat Pistol Championship in 1975 in Zurich.

With the help and urging of his friends, he opened the world-renowned Chapman Academy of Practical Shooting in Columbia Missouri. This training facility became the home of the Bianchi Cup - the most prestigious pistol competition in the world - and is still in operation today. Mr. Chapman retired from the Academy in 1995 and moved to Dripping Springs, just west of Austin. Here he enjoyed visiting with his friends, working in the motion picture industry, and relaxing at his home. All who know him will miss his loyal friendship, his honest, bluff way of expression, his sense of humor and his bright smiling blue eyes. He was a true gentleman, and the best friend a person could hope for.
Ray was scary for a newbie...arms crossed and scowling while I asked my stupid questions about grip and stance. But he spent a lot of time with me, patiently taking me through the modern technique, so very long ago now. Thanks, Ray.

We must never forget that all of us stand on the shoulders of giants, and their passings leave holes in the world that are never filled.

Go with God, my friends...


Anonymous said...

It seems all the great ones are leaving us. Rest in peace, both of you.

Anonymous said...


I'm trying to contact you but don't know whether my e-mail will go through.

Contact me.

Thanks, M

Bob Anderson said...

Heaven is a little richer today.