CCA Mourns Passing of Walter Fondren
Visionary conservationist helped change the way marine resources are managed
HOUSTON, TX – The conservation community lost one of its true visionaries with the passing of Coastal Conservation Association founder Walter W. Fondren III last week in Houston. A passionate conservationist, avid hunter and skilled fisherman, Fondren was a driving force in the grassroots movement to save red drum and speckled trout populations along the Texas coast in the late 1970s, and was one of the first to fully grasp the potential of anglers as stewards of marine resources with the creation of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now CCA).
“Walter was one of those unique individuals who saw the whole chessboard,” said Venable Proctor, chairman of CCA. “When he saw a problem with fisheries on the Texas coast, he helped build a national organization to safeguard those resources for generations to come. He grew up hunting and fishing, and fully understood that it is the responsibility of all who enjoy such privileges to leave things better than they found them. He lived his entire life by that principle and infused it into every aspect of CCA.”
As chairman of CCA, he helped guide the organization’s growth into a national presence with 17 state chapters and almost 100,000 members on all three coasts. He served on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council as a member from 1982 through 1992; was Council Chairman from 1989 to 1990; and also served on the Billfish Advisory Committee since 1994. He received the Harvey Weil Sportsman/Conservationist Award in 2000 and the prestigious Charles H. Lyles Award in 2001 from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional contributions on behalf of marine resources.
“Walter was the right man at the right time to organize anglers to fight for conservation,” said Bob Hayes, CCA’s long-time general counsel. “He really helped shape the ethic of responsibility and stewardship in recreational angling at a time when everyone knew there were problems, but no one was sure how to attack them. Walter brought together a diverse group of individuals in a common cause, without a care for recognition as long as the job was done. We have lost one of the true leaders of saltwater angling, and a great friend, too.”
Fondren was inducted into the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2004 and served as an IGFA trustee for many years. In 2005, he was named one of the 50 legends of fishing by Field & Stream magazine and he was the first recipient of the CCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
“He was a remarkable person, as comfortable meeting the president of the United States as he was sight-casting to redfish with his grandkids,” said Patrick Murray, president of CCA. “From every local chapter committee to the national board of directors, we will ensure that his remarkable legacy lives on.”
The below was sent out by CCA NY Chairman Charles Witek, to let friends know Walter was gone:
Folks– Just wanted to let you know that Walter Fondren, the founding chairman of Coastal Conservation Association, died at the end of last week.
For those of you who never knew Walter, he was probably the single individual who shaped CCA into what it ultimately became, an organization which put its principals ahead of political expediency, one which believed that integrity and credibility were always far more important than popularity, and one which made conservation of the resource and engagement of the membership its leading principles.
Walter wasn’t always easy to get along with, as he held strong opinions and was used to getting his way. However, he was always a tower of integrity, and it was his emphasis on doing what was right, rather than what was easy or profitable or popular, that created the CCA ethos. He believed in walking the high road, despite its difficulties. He was a man of his word.
Speaking personally, he was one of the few people that I have ever met who was worthy of admiration. In writing of him, I keep coming back to the word “integrity,” because that is the part of his memory that I will always value most. His strength of character, his vision and his determination created something worth believing in, even in an environment where others find ethics nothing more than a barrier to the quick accomplishment of dubious goals.
In recent years, heart problems caused Walter to resign from the chairmanship of CCA, yet even when he was not in the room, his presence and his legacy served to guide the conduct and the conversation of those present. I will always hold his memory close, for in a world fully deserving its full ration of cynicism, he provided something to believe in, and set a goal worthy of the never-ending fight in which we are engaged.
In short, Walter was a man, and I write that intending the best, oldest and fullest connotations that such word can hold. He will be missed.
Great write up on Mr. Fondren