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Straight Talk Interview: Ben Pearson Jr.

 

Ben Pearson Jr.

 

FA: First off, you have a heck of a heritage being the son of the great Ben Pearson. Some of today’s bowhunters may or not be aware of just what your Dad did for archery but hopefully this interview will shine some light on one of the sport’s legends. Your father was inducted with the initial class for the Archery Hall of Fame alongside other archery greats like Howard Hill, Fred Bear and others. Tell us where your father was born and what you know of his early life as a child.

BPJ: Yes, Frank. It is one heck of a heritage. It reaches back to the very beginning of the modern archery movement and is one in which a young Ben Pearson developed his hobby to become the World’s Largest Manufacturer of archery equipment, remaining in that position for better part of three decades. His life’s journey into the world of archery brought him into contact with what he would term the “greatest group of folks on Earth.” Dad had many friends, many of whom were also his competitors Yes, I suppose many new bowhunters are unaware of Ben Pearson’s influence on the sport of archery and bowhunting and know the name “Pearson” as a brand name, if they know it at all in today’s market.

Ben Pearson Sr.                                                             Born: November 16, 1898 – Died: March 2, 1971

 

The Pearson name does exist in today’s market. I do not represent the present Ben Pearson Archery Co., and this interview should not be viewed as anything other than an historical narrative primarily dealing with Ben Pearson and Ben Pearson Co. events prior to 1969.

In response to your reference to Dad’s induction into the Archery Hall of Fame, I remember that in June of 1972, we arrived in Grayling, Michigan, where my mother represented Dad (as a founding “Charter” inductee) in being accepted into The National Archery Hall of Fame. The inductees are all revered names in the sport and were accepted into the Hall of Fame in alphabetical order: Fred Bear, Howard Hill, Russ Hoogerhyde, Ann Weber Hoyt, Karl Palmatier, Ben Pearson and Maurice Thompson. Mother, my sister Mary, and I, all had a very enjoyable time in Grayling. Fred Bear, in a kind but risky gesture, loaned me his Ford cougar to drive. I was just 18 years old at the time.

As to where Dad was born, he was born a native Arkansan in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains near Paron, Arkansas, in a log cabin, on November 16, 1898. It was a different world growing up in the sticks of rural Arkansas around the turn of the century. Dad’s early life in that world was nearly a short one. You see, he was kicked in the middle of the forehead by an unwary mule that was surprised to feel his tail being pulled by an obnoxious 3-year-old Ben Pearson. I remember asking him what he did as a child and he replied that he played ball, swam and played with his boyhood neighbors, whittled with his knife and performed regular farm duty chores. I believe for a period of time he lived with an uncle until the family re-settled. He and his brother, Quinna, traveled with their father on business and on one of these trips, according to my late uncle, watched Confederate war veterans perform shooting exhibitions. This left quite an impression on the both of them, according to my uncle.

Good friends on a rabbit hunt; Dr. Horace Marvin, Lewis Rush, Bill Clements, Ben Pearson Sr and Dr. Jim Smith

FA: Where were you born and what was it like growing up?
BPJ: I was born in Davis hospital in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which was a super town in which to spend your childhood during the 50s and 60s. I have always thought I had a happy and normal childhood. In retrospect, I was very fortunate. Sure, I went to school, played ball, shot my bow. But I also experienced many wonderful travels and met many accomplished individuals while accompanying Dad. For instance, Dad taught me how to “trick shoot” and perform exhibitions when I was 8 and made me part of the show when we traveled to Mexico City in 1963 to participate in the Latin American Trade Fair in Mexico City. We had a phenomenal experience there. Another memorable example came later when we performed an exhibition for the father and son banquet at Montgomery Ward in Chicago, in about 1967 or 68, I believe. I came home from that trip to tell my buddies that I had just met Gale Sayers, Mario Andretti and Stan Musial, who were also at the banquet, mainly signing autographs. But I tell you, great memories were also made visiting Dad at the plant, smelling the strong, pleasant scent of Port Orford cedar emanating therefrom and witnessing all the activity, for during that time frame Ben Pearson Co. employed 600-800 people.

Archery exhibition for Boy Scouts. Dad is pitching for me in the mid-60s.

FA: Your Dad was given the title of ‘The Father of Modern Archery’. At what age did you become aware of your father’s importance in the world of archery and what did it mean to you?

BPJ: I knew “early on” that Dad was a key personality in the archery world, perhaps by age 7 or 8. However, it really did not “sink in” just how important until later. Regardless, I was and continue to be very proud. My appreciation for Dad continues to grow to this day!

Many magazine articles, newspaper quotes, quotes from individuals, etc., have referred to Dad with high regard. The following quotes cover a span of decades and are just to name a few and yes, several refer to him as “Father of Archery”.

Petersen’s Bowhunting in 2005: “BEN PEARSON: Recalling the Godfather of Bows and Bowhunting”
Quote from Jim Dougherty: Pine Bluff Commercial, in 1982: “Ben Pearson could be compared to Henry Ford because he was a mechanical genius.”
Archery Magazine in 1971: “Right then financial support and mechanical knowledge were welded, later to become the world’s greatest mass-producing archery tackle manufacturer.”
The Pacific Coast Bowhunter (The Western archers’ newspaper) in 1971: “Ben Pearson, Father of Archery, Dies”
The Shooting Industry magazine in 1971: “Ben Pearson is considered the Father of Archery because of his development of manufacturing methods and machines.”
Fred Bear in 1971: “Ben will long be remembered by his friends and for his contribution to Archery.”
Archery World Magazine in the 1970s, “Tribute to a Bowman by Brad Charles”: “He probably has exerted greater influence on the design and improvement of archery equipment, and in the growth of the sport, than anyone in the world today.”
Sporting Goods Dealers magazine in 1966: “Founded by famed archer Ben Pearson, this company has been responsible to a great degree for the mass production of archery, both through his own activities with bow and arrow and through production of the most comprehensive line in the field.”

W.T. Grimm & Company Independent Auditors, Chicago, Illinois, in 1952: “Only 14 years ago this company was organized to manufacture bows and arrows. It soon became the world’s largest and today produces about 50% of all archery equipment sold in the United States.”

W.T. Grimm from Simmons National Bank of Pine Bluff, Charles Gordon Exec. VP, in 1952: “Ben Pearson Company pioneered in archery supplies and from a three-man force built their business to where they have more than 600 employees. They are, without question, the largest manufacturer of archery supplies in the world, shipping to every state and many foreign countries.”

Popular Science in 1946: “The man who has done most to mechanize archery is Ben Pearson, a strapping outdoorsman of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.”
United Press Association’s Paul Rosenfield Staff Correspondent, in March 1945: “While many an Arkansas hunter this week is shooting wild turkey with bow and arrow, attention is focused on the man who has popularized archery both as a sport and as a game-hunting skill. He is Ben Pearson of Pine Bluff. In Pearson’s Jefferson County, Arkansas, his plant, made up of six buildings covering 84,000 square feet of floor space and employing 600 persons, is the world’s largest archery equipment factory.”
Pine Bluff Commercial in 1939: “The avocation became a vocation in 1933 when he started the business of manufacturing archery equipment, a field in which he is said to lead the world in volume production.

Ben Pearson Co.
Ben Pearson Co. -Worlds’ Largest Manufacturer of Archery Equipment
1939-1969

FA: I saw the quote that compared your dad to Henry Ford. Let’s discuss that…

BPJ: In the early 1930s, Dad’s advertisements stated, “New manufacturing methods enable us to make these unheard of low prices.” (At the time there might have been two individuals working with him). Yes, Jim Dougherty and others have compared Dad to Henry Ford and for good reason. Ford developed the assembly line after becoming aware of the efficient processing of livestock in the slaughter house operations in Chicago and soon incorporated scientific management into his production. The operations to produce a product were broken down into components and workers became specialized for that particular component; the assembly line was configured to place the components together in the order required for a completed product. Henry Ford said that he would build a car for the multitude. Ben Pearson did much the same for archery three decades later following Ford’s example. Ben Pearson applied scientific management to the workplace much the same as Ford. He also personally developed much of the machinery necessary to produce a component or required operation during those early years and developed a systematic flow to the production process. Therefore, in 1940 he was able to make the following statement in his catalog of the same year: “For the first time in the history of American archery, the manufacturing of precision bows and arrows has been placed on large scale production … We are able, more than ever, to maintain the highest standards in precision, because our large scale operations enable us to use craftsmen with highly-trained specialized ability. Thus, with the best in stock and the best in craftsmen coupled with our rigid precision supervision, we are able to produce superior archery products which have no peer in America—or the world.”

Ben Pearson and chief draftsman Edna Unsel, 1940s

Sure, there were custom bows beautifully handcrafted in those early years of the company (1940s). These were higher end product and only one of the two general classifications, the other being mass-produced bows. There were variations of each class.

FA: Was getting involved in the sport something that interested you growing up? Did your Dad mentor you in archery or did he pretty much leave it up to you if you want to learn or go a different way?

BPJ: I could not get enough of it and of course Dad mentored me! I was shooting the front door with rubber suction tipped arrows when I was 3 or 4. I really loved to shoot and became accomplished in trick shooting and loved to hunt but never entered more than a couple of tournaments.

Dad and me bowfishing for gar.

FA: Did you want to follow in your father’s footsteps?
BPJ: Yes, sure, me and about five million others at the time.

FA: Let’s go back to your Dad. Where did he grow up, go to school and spend his formative years?
BPJ: Dad grew up in and around Paron, went to school in Paron and maybe Robert E. Lee Grammar School, which is all the formal education he received outside a few course studies later. He was essentially self-taught in electricity and mechanics. His first paying job might have been repairing appliances as a teen. He then worked for some electric companies in Little Rock and North Little Rock until 1927. World War I almost saw him but the story goes that the armistice was signed while he was on his way to training camp.

Ben Pearson in late 1920s

FA: Do you know what inspired him to become interested in archery and what year was that?

BPJ: Dad read an article by Dan Beard, who was previously an illustrator for Mark Twain before moving on to other activities. Beard had many talents but is credited with starting the Boy Scout movement. Beard’s articles on archery appeared in the summer of 1926 and this was the same year Dad made his first real bow. Dad worked for an electric company AP&L at the time (in rural electrification) and was on the road a lot but quickly became an archery fanatic, entering tournaments, making equipment for others, founding clubs, etc. With his background in electricity and mechanics, coupled with his love of wood, it just all fell in place for him. His idol was famed inventor Thomas Edison and he probably greatly admired Henry Ford and followed his career. It was natural for him to be in a prime position to develop ideas for the mass production of archery equipment. Of course he did not stop with Beard for information; he found every piece of literature he could lay his hands on. He bought books by Thompson, Pope and Duff. He practiced, practiced, practiced his shooting skills and refined his equipment. He had become a well-known name in the 30s and shot in national tournaments, placing as high as 7th in 1938.

John D. Sanders using cresting machine at Ben Pearson Co designed by Ben Pearson, 1939

FA: Was he interested in other activities like football, baseball, etc?
BPJ: He took our family to several football games and a few baseball and basketball games; he enjoyed watching televised broadcasts of these sports and boxing as well.

FA: Your dad was more than just an archer. He also designed archery products and manufacturing machinery for archery products. What were some of your father’s earliest archery inventions?

BPJ: Some of his earliest product inventions include the first “mass produced broadhead” a skeleton ferule broadhead” (punch pressed steel broadhead); various fishing and arrow points or pyles; a hollow wood tournament arrow (1938/39); in the 40s, he received a patent for a three piece take down; and various archery equipment machine inventions, such as the cresting machine, handle trim lathe, bow tillering machine, automatic arrow point machine, automatic bow sanding machine, and target machine (to make straw targets). The following are a few of the patent numbers attributed to Ben Pearson: #2,182,320 arrowhead construction, #2,280,003 arrow holder, #2,305,271 target, #2,523,632 target making machine, #2,813,818 method of making a demountable bow, #2,426,283 takedown bow (mentioned above).

In 1946, he utilized his background in electricity to generate an idea to use forms with electric heat strips (or use high frequency inductance) to set glue to form laminated bows to desired shapes.

(Aside from the archery industry, Dad also played a key role in the development and manufacture of some of the first mass produced mechanical cotton pickers beginning in 1949.)

Page 8, Ben Pearson Co. Magazine -1943

FA: Can you cover the start of the Ben Pearson Company and how and who helped it all get started?

BPJ: Dad left the electric utility company around 1932 and began making equipment (as best as I can determine) for ad sales soon thereafter. This was during the Depression so he was also earning a living through other means as well. But as business grew, he employed at least two individuals to help him. From the information I have at hand it seems that Dad had formulated his ideas to mass produce archery equipment during this time frame, and though anxious to begin larger scale operations, he lacked the capital to do so and no one he approached was interested in financing him. That is, not until 1937, when a chance meeting with Carl Haun resulted in Dad finally beginning his dream idea to mass produce archery equipment. Carl made an immediate decision to finance Dad once he heard his idea of mass production. By the time Carl left Pine Bluff, a building had been acquired and plans formulated. Sometime around March of 1938, Ben Pearson Inc. was created. After two or three investments, Carl and his wife moved to Pine Bluff and the rest is history. Ben Pearson Co. was considered to be the world leader in volume production of archery equipment by April of 1939, as reported by the local Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper in 1939.

FA: In addition to designing and running the company what did your Dad do to promote archery?

BPJ: Ben Pearson did numerous things to promote archery. I included just a few of those things below.

1) A primary enticement to spur interest in or promote archery was a reduction to the “average” cost of the equipment. During the infancy of the modern era of archery, this was largely brought about by new production methods, the machines Ben Pearson invented, and the mass production resulting therefrom.

2) He encouraged participation by helping to form archery clubs, organizations and associations with other archery enthusiasts of the day. (Examples: He was a co-founder of the Archery Manufacturers and Dealers Association (AMADA), and the Southern Archery Association (SAA).

3) He and/or company representatives were available to lay out a course or introduce archery in schools or for Boy Scouts whenever possible. (At one time, Ben Pearson Co. supplied all the archery equipment used by the Boy Scouts of America.)

4) By 1952, archery sales were promoted through a 3,000-member dealer network, not to mention sales through large mail order houses such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward.

5) Sixteen millimeter instructional films, equipment displays, and instructional pamphlets were shown or distributed across the country at demonstrations, schools, clubs, and organizations and often demonstrations were televised locally and nationally. (Inside the 1942 Ben Pearson catalog on page 25: “All archers are invited to join the National Field Archery Association.”)

Ben Pearson with close friend Howard Hill at camp while hunting hogs in SE Arkansas in the 1950’s

6) Ben Pearson or company representatives, including Howard Hill, John D. & Barbra Sanders, Pat Chambers, Tom McGehee, Ann Clark, Ann Marston, Jack Witt, LJ McKool, and Jerry Baxter, among others, performed archery demonstrations across the country. In 1956 alone, Dad personally performed at more than 40 demonstration locations including the National Boy Scout Jamboree in the Los Angeles Coliseum and the nationally televised Will Rogers Jr. Show in New York City.

Ann Clark, Pearson rep for more than two decades, shooting her Palomino in front of Ben Pearson Co. office building

7) Ben Pearson sponsored and hosted the world’s largest participating indoor sporting event for a decade. This event was the Ben Pearson Open. In 1967 at the ninth Open, 1,246 archers from 40 states and Canada were in attendance. In the pamphlet of tournament results for the first Open, Ben Pearson stated, “The first indoor shoot of this proportion, marks the beginning of many more to follow. The purpose, to further and increase the interest of the sport.”

The 1st “Ben Pearson Open” Archery tournament. (Detroit Michigan 1959) 

8) Several different hunting films were produced by the company for distribution to promote bowhunting. One of these featured Howard Hill, Ben Pearson, Tom McGehee, and others bow hunting rabbits, alligator gar and wild goats. Other films featured Dad hunting ducks and pheasants on the wing, javelina, mountain lion, and two world record bears: polar and grizzly.

Ben Pearson, Jack Atkins, & world’s largest polar bear taken with bow (1965). 

9) Dad worked with various game and fish personnel, befriended governors, and responded to anti-hunting rhetoric in an effort to secure, expand and protect bowhunting for future generations.

Dad and Governor Orval Faubus, 1961

10) Ben Pearson Co. also participated in the automatic archery lane industry.

FA: Who were some bowyers that worked for your father?

BPJ: Pre-1967, Jake Mullikin, James Finley, Carter Brickell and John D. Sanders (who started with the company in 1938 and was a Ben Pearson Co. officer) are just a few. There were many more!

FA: Most children of company owners end up working there. Did you ever work with your Dad?

BPJ: The Company was sold in the 1966 or 1967 time frame to a conglomerate called Leisure Group; I was just 12 or 13 years old at the time so I did not have much of an opportunity to work at Ben Pearson Co. But yes, I did work with Dad from about 1963 to 1968 if you consider traveling around the country and Mexico performing trick shooting exhibitions as work. To me, it was just fun! In the late 80s, I helped the company put together the “Legendary Hunts of Ben Pearson” video, for which I have acquired the rights and which I currently sell on DVD.

From the mid 1940’s dad piloted his own plane  – this one being a twin Baron in the mid 1960’s 

FA: What famous archers of the day were customers or on your Dad’s pro staff?
BPJ: The term “Pro Staff” was probably not as familiar a term in the 30s, 40s, or 50s, but the following Archery Hall of Fame inductees used Pearson equipment: Howard Hill (AHOF ‘72) was a company adviser/promoter; Russ Hoogerhyde (AHOF ‘72) worked for a while at the plant in Pine Bluff; Clayton Shenk (AHOF ‘73) was a company salesman; Ann Marston (AHOF ‘78) was a company representative; Ann Clark (AHOF ‘84 and Pearson representative for more than 20 years); Bob Rhode, Ed Rohde, Len Cardinale, Jim Dougherty (AHOF and all pro staff advisers). Other famous company associated archers include Pat Chambers, Walt Wilhelm, Bob Swinehart (AHOF), George Gardner (AHOF), and perhaps Larry Whiffen (AHOF). A very few others that were pro staffers include Dan and Margaret Tillberry, Joe Fries, Robert Kadlec, James Caspers, Bob Bitner, Jack Clark, Dan Lloyd, Jim Pickering, James Mackey, Jo Ann Schulz, Arlyne Ruhl, and Marjory Lammers. (There were many other accomplished Ben Pearson pro-staffers.)

A few well-known Pearson customers or well-known friends include Myrtle Miller (AHOF), Bill Neggley, Nubbie Pate, Sterling Harrell, Roger Maynard, Shelby Woodiel, Col. Milam Elliott, and M.R. James (AHOF), as well as cowboy legend Roy Rogers, actor Guy Madison, singer John Gary, actor Jock Mahoney and famed hunter Sasha Siemel. Without doubt, many more well-known personalities have not been mentioned.

FA: Can you describe some of the high points in the company’s history?
BPJ: 1) In 1937, Ben Pearson’s meeting and becoming associated with Carl Haun, who not only financed Ben Pearson Co. but also served as president and general manager until his death in 1963, was a high point.

On a side note, Carl was an experienced businessman and his contribution to the sport (including financing, managing, and building with Ben Pearson the largest manufacturing archery company in the world and pioneering a new industry) has tragically not been fully recognized by the industry!

Mother, sister Rena, Dad, Howard Hill and Carl Haun.

2) In 1939, Ben Pearson Co. led the world in volume production of archery equipment, and began the mass production of broadheads. (Punch pressed steel “skeleton” ferrule broadhead)

3) A major milestone that can be viewed as the birth of the modern era of archery, as also revealed on the inside cover of the 1940 catalog, is best described by Dad. In reminiscing over his role in the growth of the sport of archery, Ben Pearson stated, “The first significant step was the application of modern production technology. It produced more archery tackle, more economically, thereby making it available to more people.”

4) In 1943, 365 employees worked at Ben Pearson Co.

5) In 1946, Ben Pearson Co. was featured in national publications, The Saturday Evening Post and Popular Science.

6) In 1947, the company received the state’s Legion award for hiring the physically handicapped.

7) In 1952, Ben Pearson Co. began using fiberglass and in subsequent years develops the molded fiberglass bow.

8) In 1956, 800 employees worked at Ben Pearson Co. In this year, Ben Pearson personally performed 40 plus archery exhibitions and promotions across the country including a National Scout Jamboree in the Los Angeles Coliseum and nationally televised Will Rogers CBS television show in New York City.

9) In 1957, Jack Witt was hired to take charge of marketing. Jack changed the dated marketing plan of Ben Pearson, became highly skilled with a bow, was an instrumental force in the PAA, Ben Pearson Open, performed exhibitions, assisted Dad with his exhibitions, and wrote archery clinic columns.

10) In 1958, Ben Pearson Co. introduces the “Palomino.” Its performance record includes:

National Target Championships, Oak Brook Ill., 1961. 1st Women’s division, 3rd Men’s division. (Margaret Tillberry) (James Caspers)

National Target Championships, Oxford, Ohio 1960. 1st – 2nd – 3rd Men’s division; 1st – 2nd Women’s division. (Robert Kadlec) (James Caspers) (James Mackey) (Ann Clark) (Margaret Tillberry)

National Field Championships, Grayling, Mi, 1960. 2nd Men’s division; 2nd Women’s division. (James Frey) (Ann Clark)

Netherlands Championship Tournament, Doorn, Holland, 1960. 1st Men’s division, new world record.

Ben Pearson Open, Akron, Ohio, 1960. 1st Men’s division, new world record. (James Caspers)

National Invitational Tournament, Grayling, Michigan, 1960. 1st Men’s division. (Bob Kadlec)

World Target Championships, Stockholm, Sweden, 1959. 1st – 2nd – 4th Men’s division. (James Caspers) (Robert Kadlec) (Bob Rhode)

F.I.T.A. Shoot Off, Hinsdale, Illinois, 1959. 1st – 3rd – 4th Men’s division.

National Target Championships, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1959. 2nd Men’s division. (Robert Kadlec)

National Field Championships, Bend, Oregon, 1959. 1st – 4th Men’s division. (Robert Kadlec) (Bob Rhode)

International Field Shoot, Stockholm, Sweden, 1959. 1st – 2nd Men’s division. (Robert Kadlec)

Ben Pearson Open, Detroit, Michigan, 1959. 1st – Men’s division. (James Caspers)

Midwestern Field Championships, Madison, Wisconsin, 1959. 1st – 2nd Men’s division.

Midwestern Target Championships, Madison, Wisconsin, 1959. 1st Men’s division.

Brown County (Indiana) Open, 1959. 1st – 2nd – 3rd Men’s division.

Southwest Open Field Championships, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1959. 1st – 3rd Men’s division.

The famous Palomino bow from Ben Pearson Co.

11) From 1959-1968, the Ben Pearson Open Tournament was the largest indoor participating sporting event in the world. The first and last Open occurred in Detroit, Michigan.

12) In the early 60s, the Golden Sovereign series of archery equipment was introduced. This line featured the Lord and Lady Sovereign and Lord and Lady Mercury, considered on the top end of equipment in the industry during this time frame by many.

13) In 1963, Ben Pearson represented the United States, alongside several other leading firms and organizations such as IBM, General Motors, and NASA, by performing exhibitions every day for a month at the Latin American Trade Fair in Mexico City. The fair attracted 600,000 people.

White River Refuge, SE Arkansas 1955

Also in 1963, Ben Pearson invented the “Dead Head” broad head.

Also in 1963, TAM (The Archer’s Magazine) celebrated the 25th anniversary of Ben Pearson Co.: “World’s Largest Manufacturer of Archery Equipment”

14) In 1965, Ben Pearson took a world record grizzly and polar bear on the same trip to Alaska. It was his first and only time to hunt these species.

15) In 1966, the Sporting Goods Dealers magazine awards Ben Pearson Co. the National Leadership award in the category of “Specialized Manufacturer.”

16) In 1980, Governor Bill Clinton and Iron Eyes Cody were on-hand to celebrate the 200,000,000th arrow made by Ben Pearson Co.

FA: When did your Dad step down and retire from his company? Who did he hand the reigns to?
BPJ: Dad retired in 1969 mainly due to health concerns. Leisure Group Inc. (a California based conglomerate) had purchased the company a few years before and hired Jim Dougherty as their lead man in promotions among other duties.

FA: Can you tell us a bit about your family? A little about your Mother and any siblings?
BPJ: My wife, Paulette, and I have three children. Their names are Paulette, Ben III and Diana. Our daughter Paulette is the marketing director for an Internet based merchandising company based in California. Our son Ben is currently affiliated with our business (Longbow Resorts). Diana, our youngest child, is approaching her senior year in college where she majors in psychology. I have two sisters. Mary lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Rena is located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. My mother, Mary, is 90, still active, and has not missed a year handing out awards at the annual Ben Pearson Memorial Tournament held in Pine Bluff.

Ben Pearson, Jr., Daughter Paulette, Son Ben Pearson III, Mother, Daughter Diana

FA: Can you tell us any more about your dad? What was he like to be around?

BPJ: Anyone who met Ben Pearson was sure to like him. We all loved him dearly! On many occasions, I heard him reply, “Whatever suits you just tickles me pink,” or, “The proof is in the pudding.” Some of Dad’s acquaintances and friends present a good portrayal of Dad’s personality:

Jim Dougherty:

“I found Ben to be a very quiet, low key kind of guy though possessed of a dry, entertaining wit. He was a superb archer with uncanny skill on moving targets much like his close friend Howard Hill.”

Jack Witt:

“Ben, I’ve had many enjoyable hours with you. At times I think I made you so mad you could bite nails, but five minutes later you would come around and say, ‘Let’s get a coke, or coffee.’ And you can’t keep from loving a guy like that. I don’t think you have ever held a grudge against anyone. Fact is I don’t think you’ve ever realized just how many friends you have. “

Jack Atkins:

“Ben is a quiet, easy-going man … with a heart as big as his chest. I have watched him befriending children from the frozen wastes above the Arctic Circle to the steaming wilds of Mexico. He’s always the same … immediately establishing a rapport with the little ones.” (Ken Oldham, Dad’s guide in Alaska, forwarded a letter to Jack that stated, “The children here in Kotzebue are asking if ‘The man with the bow’ is coming back up here this year.”)

Don Croft:

Ben was very dear to me personally as he stood for, and represented the utmost in manhood, honesty and sincerity. He taught me that life is a mixture of good days and bad, victory and defeat, give and take. He taught me that buck-passing always turns out to be a boomerang and that carrying a chip on my shoulder is the best way to get into a fight. I learned from Ben that business could run along perfectly well without me and that it doesn’t matter who gets credit so long as a business prospers.

His philosophy was one of great integrity, that the janitor is human and that it didn’t do any harm to smile and say Good morning, even when it was raining. He taught me that most other men were as ambitious as he was that they had brains that were as good as his and that hard work and not cleverness is the secret of his success.

He sympathized with me, a youngster coming into his business because he remembered how bewildered he was when he first started and he always said, “Not to worry when I lost an order because experience has shown that if one always gives his very best, his average will break pretty well. When frustration hit me he would tell me that no man ever got to first base alone and that it was only through cooperative efforts that we move on to better things. He represented that bosses were no monsters, trying to get the last ounce of work out of me for the least amount of pay but rather they are fine men who have succeeded through hard work and want to do the right thing.

Ben taught me a very sound lesson, one I will never forget; that folks are not any harder to get along with in one place than another and that getting along depends about ninety eight percent on my own behavior.

Another insight into Ben Pearson (his principles) from Dad’s letter to Glenn St. Charles, as follows:

Dear Mr. St. Charles,

I am in receipt of correspondence between you and Mr. John Heuston concerning the two bears which it was my good fortune to take with the bow and arrow while on a hunting trip in Alaska earlier this year. I regret very much that there has been some misunderstanding concerning these bears in connection with the Pope and Young Club.

In this connection I am writing you to clarify the matter with you. As stated in Mr. Heuston’s letter, the bears were officially measured by George Blum and duly witnessed and the entry forms were forwarded to me. However, I could not bring myself to the point of signing the so called Fair Chase Clause, in as much as I spotted both bears from the air, as much as I would like to have them entered in the Pope and Young Club. In both instances considerable stalking was necessary before the kill, but this, of course, does not alter the fact that we did find them from the air and I could not sign the statement.

I hope this clarifies the matter and wishing you every success with the club and pledging my support of it, I am, Yours very truly, Ben Pearson

FA: What do you feel was your dad’s biggest contribution to archery?

BPJ: He was a primary founding pioneer of today’s modern era of archery in respect to production of equipment and promotion of the sport. He developed the initial machinery, adopted scientific management, and applied modern production technology to the sport thereby making the sport available to the “multitude” (a term used by Henry Ford regarding the automobile). Ben Pearson Co. produced the first truly mass produced archery equipment and initiated and sponsored the largest indoor archery tournament for nearly a decade, the Ben Pearson Open. Through Ben Pearson’s production of equipment, promotional hunts, tournaments, and exhibitions (both his own and through sponsored representatives like Howard Hill (1954-57), Ann Clark and many others), countless numbers of individuals were introduced to the sport.

FA: Do you think your father has received the recognition from archery he deserves for all he did for the sport?

BPJ: There are few people who have devoted their soul to archery as Ben Pearson did. If there are other awards or recognitions to be had that Ben Pearson has not received for which he is or was eligible, then Ben Pearson has long been overlooked. On the other hand, Dad would have been happy to have received an award or not to have, and would have perhaps addressed your question as follows: “There are few men who have the opportunity of working at something they enjoy, as I have. Archery has been very good to me.”

Founding Inductees to Archery Hall of Fame (1972)  – (Hill was not present. Ben Pearson & Maurice Thompson were inducted posthumously). 

My mother represented Dad (as a founding “Charter” inductee) in being accepted into The National Archery Hall of Fame 1972. The inductees are all revered names in the sport and were accepted into the Hall of Fame in alphabetical order: Fred Bear, Howard Hill, Russ Hoogerhyde, Ann Weber Hoyt, Karl Palmatier, Ben Pearson and Maurice Thompson.

Dad received the NFAA‘s highest award, the Compton Medal of Honor, in 1968; and was inducted posthumously into the Archery Hall of Fame in 1972 (as a charter inductee), The National Bowhunters Hall of Fame, The National Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame, The Arkansas Outdoor Sportsmen’s Hall of Fame, The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and The Arkansas Bowhunters Hall of Fame.

FA: Describe some of the shots your dad made.

BPJ: Dad routinely made difficult shots look easy; these are just a very few. He would end his demonstrations by pinning a tossed ping pong ball from a distance of 30 feet with a 63lb or greater bow. He downed a pronghorn with a heart shot traveling at what appeared to be a full run from 25 yards (pronghorn have been clocked at 65mph+). He shot a javelina from the top of a mountain; the shot was estimated to be 100 yards out and 300 to 400 yards below. This shot is captured on film.

Jim Dougherty described one of Dads’ shots as follows:
“I saw Ben make lots of fine shots in the field and in exhibitions, but to me the most memorable was a running shot he connected with on a zigzagging swamp rabbit hightailing through spindly trees
in a stretch of muddy Arkansas bottomland.”

Ben Pearson – 1968

FA: Your father passed away in 1971 after a remarkable life and was inducted as part of the initial class of 1972 into the Archery Hall of Fame alongside other archery greats like Howard Hill and Fred Bear. Can you tell us what that honor meant to you and his family?

BPJ: Of course it is a great honor for anyone to be recognized by peers in any vocation. Dad is considered, by those who know enough about him, to be an archery legend and a primary Founding Father of the modern era. The Ben Pearson Co. is no longer the giant of the industry that it once was. We (Ben Pearson’s family and the pre-1969 Ben Pearson Co. family) are just left with memories and the hope that those memories will stay straight and true within the annals of the historic narrative.

Fred Bear and Paulette Pearson -1988

FA: Ben, when you agreed to this interview you said you would be happy to participate if you could discuss the mural at the Archery Hall of Fame Museum. Can you tell us what’s on your mind regarding this?

BPJ: The Archery Hall of Fame Museum now has a rejuvenated home made possible in large part by the very generous contributions of Earl and Ann Hoyt and Bass Pro Shop. It is a stunning tribute to the legends of the sport. The Hall is located in the flagship store of Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri. For those who might have visited the temporary museum and noticed the 8-by-12 foot mural painting that features the primary modern era legends and heroes of the sport of archery and wondered why Ben Pearson was not depicted, please know the mural is not a finished product and that Ben Pearson’s likeness, according to Hall of Fame officials, will soon be added. The mural itself will probably not be back in view until a new wing to the museum is added sometime in the next several years.

FA: If you could sum up your dad in one sentence, what would it be?

BPJ: He was phenomenal and that’s an understatement with regard to his contribution, skill and accomplishments in the world of archery and bowhunting!

FA: What are you doing these days?

BPJ:  Anyone who might be interested in what I am doing these days should visit my web site: www.longbowresorts.com

FA: Thank you for allowing us some insight into your dad and his life. He is truly a great name in archery and now more people will know more about the man.

BPJ: I wish to thank you and Rich and send special thanks to Ann Clark, inducted into Archery Hall of Fame (1984) and also a Ben Pearson Co. representative for more than two decades, for suggesting this interview. I fondly refer to Ann as “The Goddess of Archery.” For she truly is archery’s goddess of the modern era, as she is a premier archery champion and participated in or promoted several aspects of the sport and is still very active in her mid-80s representing the sport. She is current vice president of the Archery Hall of fame. She was a bowhunter until three years ago, was a co-founder of the PAA, a member of the 1957 World Team that finished 1st-2nd-3rd in both the men’s and women’s division, a record still unbroken; and the only archer to win the “big three”: National Target, National Field, and the Ben Pearson Open. Ann was one of the premier representatives for the company. (I know of no other professional archer to have represented a company for as long a period as Ann Clark did for Ben Pearson.)


Ann Clark Display, September 15, 2012, in the Archery Hall of Fame (Ann’s Ben Pearson Lord Sovereign, top left)

Dad and company officials would often receive letters after an Ann Clark performance. An example is the following excerpt from sportscaster Jimmy Crum in 1962 in a letter to Jack Witt (marketing director for Ben Pearson Co.):

“May I take this opportunity to tell you that the Ben Pearson Company is indeed fortunate to have a woman like Ann Clark as a representative. Her ingratiating personality, poise, stage presence, charm and deep warmth, not to mention her exceptional ability as an archer, can lead to nothing but the finest of publicity for your Company where Mrs. Clark is concerned. In 17 years of sports casting, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many champions, but in my book, Jack, Ann Clark is in a class by herself.”

Ben Jr, Ann Clark, and sister Mary, early 1960s in Detroit, Michigan 

 

One of Ann’s (and champion daughter Debbie’s) favorite bows was a Ben Pearson Palomino, but you will not find Ann’s Palomino in the Archery Hall because it is located (along with Debbie’s) in the Professional Women in Sports section of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

The great Ann Marston, another stellar legend who also represented Ben Pearson Co., is honored with a fabulous display on the other side of Ann Clark’s display. Visitors to the Archery Hall of Fame will enjoy first-rate presentations, like Ann’s pictured above, upon their tour of the Hall located within the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Mo. (Grand opening is projected to be sometime in the spring of 2013.)

I agree with Mr. Crum that Ann Clark truly is in a class by herself, not only in her profession but also as a warm, compassionate individual who has devoted much of her time to caring for others. She was primary caretaker of her dear friend Ann Weber Hoyt during her prolonged illness. The great archer Ann Weber Hoyt, wife of Earl Hoyt and also a founding charter member of the Archery Hall of Fame (1972), contributed along with Earl much of the funding that makes today’s Archery Hall of Fame museum possible.

Frank, thank you and Rich again for providing this forum to preserve the memory of archery’s greats. Perhaps archers can also remember Ben Pearson, “So long as the new moon returns in heaven a bent beautiful bow,” as Maurice Thompson (AHOF 1972) once penned, for Ben Pearson greatly contributed to man’s fascination with the sport of archery.


Share Your Comments or Opinion Below, Thanks

2 Comments for “Straight Talk Interview: Ben Pearson Jr.”

  1. Darrall Dougherty

    Great interview! Dad has always talked very highly of Ben. Wish I could have met him. A legend that should never be forgotten.

    Darrall Dougherty

  2. This is another fantastic interview that really covers the life of one of our industry’s most admired creators. We all owe Ben Pearson and Ben Pearson Jr a debt of gratitude.

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