Chuck Buckley: The man

Martin Close III’s father Martin Jr. often good-naturedly called his friend Chuck Buckley an “unnaturalized citizen” of Alexandria.

And, indeed, Charles F. Buckley came from far away — Natick, Mass., a suburb of Boston. But he became more Louisiana than many of its native sons.

Chuck appeared on the Louisiana scene in 1945, after being discharged from the armed forces. As a souvenir of his time in the big war, he walked with a permanent limp — due to what he called a “gimp” leg suffered when a Luftwaffe fighter shot up his bomber on July 9, 1944, over Ploesti, Romania.

His appearance was timed perfectly with Louisiana’s budding conservationist movement, in which he would play such a prominent role.

On Oct. 27, 1940, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation was formed. The Federation described itself as “a non-political, non-profit group of civic-minded men and women interested in the basic principles which underlie constructive conservation.”

Most of its members were prominent and influential citizens. The group would by the 1950s become a huge umbrella organization that had within it as many as 60 local conservation clubs and leagues.

On Feb. 18, 1946, the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association was organized. In their words, “The organization stands for the conservation and preservation of the natural resources of Louisiana, and its membership is pledged to carry forward in every way at its command a campaign of education of the urgent needs of conservation of the State’s wildlife and natural resources.”

Over 65 years later the organization still stands as the state’s premier professional association of outdoors journalists and broadcasters.

Buckley immediately began college, graduating from Louisiana College in 1948. Just as quickly, he became wrapped up in Central Louisiana’s hunting and fishing, and from there to talking publicly about it.

He became an outdoor columnist of the Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria and did an outdoor radio show with Bill Day.

He helped found the Catahoula Lake Conservation Club and joined many more organizations. By late in his life, Buckley had served as president of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, the Rapides Wildlife Association, the Catahoula Lake Conservation Club, the Central Louisiana Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, as well as the Greater Alexandria/Pineville Chamber of Commerce, the Rapides Parish Junior Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA of Alexandria and the Unitarian Fellowship of Alexandria.

His individual awards are too numerous to list, but most of us (at least those of us old enough) remember him as the pipe-smoking, perpetually grinning and friendly executive director of LOWA. He held the position so long that his name became synonymous with the organization.

Chuck Buckley died on Sept. 20, 2002, at the age of 79. After his death, Martin Close Jr., also now deceased, described a memorable day in the outdoors with him.

“Chuck and I spent many happy hours together hunting and fishing on Catahoula Lake and Little River,” he said. “I remember one very cold winter when Little River froze over from bank to bank, to my personal knowledge the only time in 50 years. Going down the river that morning our boat was breaking ice, which flew in all directions.

“That year Chuck and I were hunting in our blind out in the lake during a day when rain, sleet and snow were falling. Only an occasional duck flew by. Charlie was smoking his pipe with the bowl turned upside down so the rain wouldn’t put it out. We hadn’t taken many birds and were both miserable, but neither of us wanted, small-boy style, to chicken out.

“Finally Chuck said, ‘Having fun?’

“I replied, ‘Sure am. I don’t know when I’ve had so much.’

“Chuck said, ‘I guess that means that you are ready to go.’

“I replied, ‘If you insist.’

“When we got to the boat, we found that the ignition key had frozen in the switch. Fearful of breaking the key and stranding us, I took off my gloves and put one palm on either side of the key until the ice released it. The motor started and we made it to the camp as darkness started to fall.”

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.