I was visiting the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart the other day, when they informed me that an old-timer had died a few days previous to my visit. My heart quickly saddened, knowing he had departed this life, but I know he is now in a much better place than Mother Earth.
His name is George Purvis. The man, who became known as “Mr. Arkansas Outdoors” to a whole generation of young Arkansans and to their parents for whom his popular radio and television shows were weekly entertainment highlights, had died at the age of 83. All together he was on television 26 years.
As one admirer stated, “For decades, he was an icon, probably rivaling Frank Broyles as the best known non-elected person in the state.”
You may remember my column, “The Renaissance Man,” which I wrote some months ago for Delta Farm Press detailing the life and adventures of Purvis. This short column, today, in no way can give him his dues, but, at least, I must attempt to say some departing words to a friend that will be missed years from now by so many, including me.
He joined the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission after graduation from college and quickly advanced to the position of chief of information. During his 36-year career, he served under all five game and fish commission directors, developing its magazine, newsletter, and other publications. He also produced several movies on hunting and fishing during this period.
In addition, he criss-crossed Arkansas, giving hundreds of speeches annually to civic clubs, church groups, school classes and sportsmen's gatherings as he gladly shared his awareness of all forms of hunting and fishing in Arkansas.
He served for two years as director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission after he retired. At one time, he wrote a monthly column for the sports magazine Outdoor Life. His wildlife photographs are still seen in the sports pages of the Democrat-Gazette, and many adorn the pages of pictorial books on Arkansas. Furthermore, he was an accomplished artist, his paintings gracing the walls of many homes throughout the Mid-South.
Multitudes have seen his photographs of Wallace Claypool's Wild Acres, where some 300,000 ducks were exploded into the air by three blocks of TNT that were shot while in mid-air by the legendary Herb Parsons (“Winchester Wizard”) on Claypool's Wild Acres Reservoir in the mid-1950s. They are probably the most famous photographs in duck-hunting history. They have been used many times to illustrate the famous concentration of ducks that existed then.
Moreover, the whole affair was filmed by NBC's Dave Garroway of Wide Wide World, a program broadcast live on a Sunday afternoon to 4 million viewers.
He spent his boyhood years on the White River, where he learned to fish. On the plains of Prairie County he developed his love for squirrel and duck hunting, a passion which he carried into the home of every Arkansas sportsman.
He was instrumental in a number of new ventures in the Arkansas outdoors that are now fixtures. Hunter education and boater education were started. The mandatory use of fluorescent orange garments for big game hunters came about in the 1970s. Informing and encouraging young people to enjoy the outdoors was a constant direction for Purvis.
An ardent Christian man, his personal code of ethics and the example of his daily life are an inspiration for all of us who knew and loved him. You shall be missed.