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February 19, 2008

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Goodbye to Grits

After 85 years filled with achievements and honors and a hell of a lot of fun, Grits Gresham passed away on Monday, February 18 at the age of 85. He was a great many things. He was a true all-around outdoorsman. He was a wonderful, and stylish, shotgun shooter. He brought the same grace to that art that Joe DiMaggio brought to center field. He was a personality, and a great story teller, and above all things, a gentleman.

Gritsaward1 I shared one hunt with him, a two-week safari in Botswana's Kalahari Desert. It took place in October, which is summer below the equator, and I watched him make a 15-mile stalk after a lion walking through sand, with the air temperature 105 degrees, 3,000 feet above sea level, at age 55. Grits found the lion, asleep on its back, with a snout full of porcupine quills, and didn't want to shoot, but the PH pointed out that if the hunt could be concluded safely, it was best to do it that way, so Grits pulled the trigger.

He was born Claude Hamilton Gresham, and I asked him once how he made the transition to Grits. His father, it seems, was a semi-pro baseball player whose nickname was "Grit" Gresham. Young Claude Hamilton eventually was called "Little Grits," and then Grits. It had nothing to do with ground-up cornmeal as far as I know. Ed Zern, wishing to shed more light on the subject, pointed out that Grits spelled backward was Stirg, which did not seem to help matters greatly.

By any name we will miss him. He was a type of man that we do not seem to be producing any more.


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Chad Love

I grew up reading his columns and stories in Sports Afield.
No offense to the current crop of youngish gun writers (present blog host excluded, of course. I grew up reading you, too, so I guess that makes you "old") but there just aren't many gun writers out there any more with a recognizable voice. No originality or literary flair. Just an assembly line of corporate-sponsored Bubba-faced automatons regurgitating the same tired old chestnuts month after month after month.
That, in my opinion is the difference between "old" gun writers like Grits Gresham and and "new" gun writers.
Old writers actually cared about crafting a story. They understood the importance of narrative. They cared about what they wrote.
New gun writers? Many of them are so bad, so bereft of innate literary talent I don't know if I'm reading a magazine article or an entry lifted off someone's MySpace page.
I know it's an oft-repeated lament, but it's my lament and I'll stick with it until I discover someone who can hold my attention for more than a paragraph.
Until then, thank God for those musty old back issues...


A great loss to us all. He will be missed. Condolences to the family and God bless.

Jim in Mo.

Besides Grits' writings it seems he also was a semi-regular on an outdoor show and I believe at times he was also accompanied by his son if I'm not mistaken.


I think his son took over Grits radio show also? Isnt his' sons nam Tom?


Enjoyed every word. Just re-read his piece about Buckskin Bill, the last of the Mountain Men.


In addition to his writing and outdoorsmanship, he was also an actor.


God bless Grits.


In Texas, to know a man is to recognize his hat before you can see his face! Grits without that hat would have just been Claude Gresham.
"Lord, take care of the one's who have gone before us, and thank you for the time we had with them!"



Grits was a man who made the world better with his humor, integrity and great writing skills.
I hate to have to agree that most of the great (or even really good) gun writers have gone on to the next safari. O'Connor, Keith, Sundra, now Gresham.

Del in KS

Chad you could not have said it better.
Heck maybe Grits can talk with Elmer, Jack, Jon, Charlie Askins, Jeff Cooper and Skeeter Skelton about guns again. We will all be there some day.

Dave Petzal

To Silverarrow: Jon Sundra? I spoke with him at the SHOT Show. He had a cold, but he was a long way from dead. You sure?


It sounds like he lived his life to the fullest.

All the best to his family and friends.


Jon Sundra

I was dead, but I got better.


I'm afraid "Gun Writer Heaven" is a highly contentious, if not dangerous locale.

Jack has likely tired of Keith's little man braggadocio and punched him in the nose, Askins murderous tendencies probably compelled him to a throw down with Cooper (The Modern Technique versus Cold Blooded Killer), And Skelton, the most unassuming and seemingly unaffected of the lot, probably just wants to go back to New Mexico.

I sure hadn't heard about Sundra's demise, so I'm glad to see he checked in. Maybe his growing "hunt snobbery" just made him seem dead.

D. Morin

I have a book on the history of Roy Weatherby written in 1992 by Grits and Tom Gresham, and I can recall reading articles by Grits in various magazines over the years. Believe he was from LA-if he took his nickname from that staple dish of The South, he and I would have hit it off-I love grits-Good bye to a fine gent..


My condolences to Grits Gresham's Family. I remember reading his articles in Sports Afield, and enjoyed his writings. He is part of the reason that I'm still an avid outdoorsman.

Dr. Ralph

For years whenever my "Sports Afield" was in the mailbox I rushed into the house to read Grits' column... sometimes that was all I read but he was worth the price of admission. Chad said it all. Not many can keep my interest after the first paragraph. Hope you're not planning on going anywhere Dave.

Clay Cooper

A many great Sportsmen have been called home and left a void in our hearts and minds that we never will be filled. One of the biggest Sportsmen to me that ever walked on this earth is my Father. This last season, I kept glancing over at the passenger seat expecting him to be there, only to realize the seat was empty, void of his presence as Grits Gresham to those that knew him, it’s not until you lose someone so close to you when you realize the importance, the impact and influence of them on your life and everything around.


Another giant heads for the Happy Hunting Ground. Rest in peace, gentle soul.

Bernie Kuntz

In the early-to-mid-1980s I lived in Juneau, AK and worked for the Public Safety Dept. as a state security officer and ultimately as a bodyguard for then Gov. Bill Sheffield. One of my duties was security at the Alaska State Museum. I sat at a podium, greeted visitors, and every half hour walked the museum on both levels to make sure no one was breaking into exhibits or peeing in the corners. After one of my rounds I came back to the podium and saw that a couple people had signed in while I was on my rounds. One of the signatures was "Grits Gresham!" I charged back up into the second level, walked the entire museum, upstairs and down, and never could find him! He must have come and gone very quickly, and I regret to this day that I never got to meet him!

Jim in Mo.

Bernie Kuntz,
Wow I've had a couple regretts in my life (not including family or me) and that would rank in the top 2 or 3! I'd have checked the bathroom, parking lot and cafeteria.


Dave, Jon
I sure am blessed to be wrong! Thought I had seen a memorial peice to Jon a while back stating that such and such rifle would be made in .umpteefrats JRS to memorialize Jon Sundra.
Like I said, it is good and a blessing to be mistaken on occasion.

WA Mtnhunter

God bless Grits Gresham and what he did for the sport. None finer.

I thought I was dead once, too. But I woke up and was just in Nebraska....


So Long Grits... you were among the last of the Golden-Age Sportsmen, when Africa was still Dark and when the newest "gimmick" was a hunting knife that one could fold. You had the enviable position of loving what you did and it truly showed in your writing. I first saw you hunting with Curt Gowdy on an episode of The American Sportsman back in the 60's and followed you in your writing from then on... and Boy could you write! I always felt like I was there with you! Grits Gresham, you will be sorely missed.

Sounds like reports of Jon's death have been greatly exagerated.

Ian Manning

So, Grits has gone; and I will not forget him. I wrote in my book With a Gun in Good Country of one of the finest lion hunts I ever conducted when guiding Grits, and accompanied by David Petzal

'For three hours the lion trekked east. It was a vacant land shimmering in that fierce sun. He would be lying up now and we would have to get to him before dark. We had kept up a fast pace for three hours when I called a temporary halt for a rest. The water bottle was almost empty, but it was a case of FHB: family hold back. The medics will tell you to drink lots of water to avoid heat stroke and dehydration. That's true but it is the manner of the drinking which is important. It is no good pouring water down your throat. Rather pour it into your palm and suck at it. And drink a lot before you start and, as the Afrikaners say, 'Byt vas' (stick it out) and avoid tipping back the cold sack.
We found the first porcupine kill an hour before dark, then another and yet another. Long shadows spread out from the bushes, a harbinger of the cold night ahead. I pressed on faster now hoping that we would come up with him. Suddenly the trackers froze, then moved rapidly behind us. And there beneath a low thorn tree was the lion and as we watched he rolled over, a massive forearm and paw arcing through the air and back to earth. To my right stood Grits, rifle at the ready. I felt like I always did when a lion or leopard came on a bait, a little disappointed that we were going to kill him without him knowing we were there. I tapped on the butt of the rifle hoping to get him to spring up. But when there was no reaction, I thought better of it for the light was failing and I did not want to lose him. Grits shot him and he will never have a better lion hunt.'


Prop me up, beside the jukebox, if I die.
He will live forever in the minds of those who read his words. I drink a shot in his name.

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