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Outdoorsman Grits Gresham Dies at 85

Lisa Metheny © February 2008

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Outdoorsman Grits Gresham Dies at 85

Grits Gresham, noted outdoorsman, writer, author, and television personality, died on February 18, 2008, in his hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana, at the age of 85.

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.

Born Claude Hamilton Gresham, Jr. on June 21, 1922, in Spartanburg County, SC, Grits was the fourth of five children of Claude H. Gresham and Belle Hill Gresham . He attended Blue Ridge School for Boys, the University of North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Yale and received his B.S. and M.S. from Louisiana State University.

Gresham's many awards include the Winchester Outdoorsman of the Year, Alumnus of the Year in the LSU School of Forestry and Wildlife Management; induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and LSU Hall of Distinction; awards for excellence in writing and contributions to conservation from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Northwestern State University.

At the 2006 SHOT Show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation recognized Gresham with its Lifetime Achievement Award and at that time established, with the Professional Outdoor Media Association, the POMA/NSSF Grits Gresham Communicator Award, the recipient receiving a bronze replica of Gresham's trademark hat.

Arrangements are being made through the Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home, at (318) 357-8271, www.blanchardstdenisfuneralhome.com.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Gresham Collection at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, 321 Bienville Street, Natchitoches, LA 71457, or in the name of Grits Gresham to the Alzheimer's Association. 

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