Bass Pro Shops founder/CEO Johnny Morris began selling fishing tackle in his father’s Brown Derby Liquor Store in Springfield, Mo., in 1972. Now, 50 years later, Bass Pro Shops boasts more than 170 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, with more than 40,000 employees.
Johnny started his angling empire with a $10,000 loan—cosigned by his dad, John A. Morris—and he drove to Okiebug, a wholesale fishing tackle store in Tulsa, Okla. Johnny spent every penny and packed a U-Haul full of fishing lures that he sold at Brown Derby. The rest, as they say, is history.
Another piece of history: John A. Morris was a World War II veteran, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The Battle, which lasted six brutal weeks in Belgium between December 1944 and January 1945, was the German Army’s last major offensive on the Western Front. In terms of participation and losses, the Battle of the Bulge is arguably the greatest battle in American military history, with more than 80,000 U.S. casualties, including more than 19,000 dead.
Bass Pro’s Commitment to Our Troops
Understandably so, Johnny Morris’ father is one of the reasons Bass Pro Shops is committed to supporting U.S. troops and veterans, including offering military discounts and actively recruiting veterans to join Bass Pro. Johnny’s lifelong respect and gratitude to servicemen and servicewomen is also evident by Bass Pro Shops ongoing multi-million-dollar philanthropic endeavors, including Patriots Park, Trail of Honor, Portraits of Courage, and more.
Johnny celebrated all things Bass Pro Shops during the World’s Fishing Fair at his national headquarters in Springfield on March 30-April 3. The one-of-a-kind showcase featured seminars, meet-and-greets, concerts and more from stars across the worlds of fishing, hunting, conservation, country music, and NASCAR. And Outsider was there to cover the golden anniversary. We sat down for interviews with Johnny Morris, fishing legends Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, and Roland Martin, as well as NASCAR’s Richard Childress, Austin Dillon, Noah Gragson, Martin Truex Jr., and more.
During our sit-down with Johnny Morris, we asked him about his father’s service to our country during the Battle of the Bulge. While we originally posted the video on Father’s Day 2022, we thought we’d share Johnny’s touching remembrance of his father on Veterans Day 2022, as well.
Johnny Morris Salutes His Father
“My dad was old school, pretty strict. And I knew he was in the military, but he just never talked about it. And I never probed him about it,” said Johnny to Outsider. “So after I was 21 [circa 1969], later in life a little a bit, and my dad was getting up in his years, but we were around a campfire one night on a gravel bar and we’d been fishing that day and my dad just decided to share some things with me about his life, that he wanted me to know that he never had shared with me before. And he just told me several stories, having kind of a rough way. Growing up, how he was raised by his great aunt and just some things that he wanted me to know.
“He wasn’t looking for sympathy, but he also told me about going off, being in the war and it was the Battle of the Bulge and I’ll just never forget, he looked across the campfire at me. He said, ‘Son, your dad’s lucky to be here across from you.’ And he said, ‘Because lots of the young people around me, they didn’t, they weren’t as lucky as your dad to make it through it.’ And he said it was, it was a rough go. And that was pretty much all that was said, but I think about that picture in my mind. We all know many people that have served for our freedoms and friends we have at work and family, this is a land of opportunity and everybody that makes it that way. How can we ever forget them?”