Outdoorsman Paul King Mourned By Friends

This appeared in the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal - March 12, 2006

Paul King's reign as a naturalist is etched forever in the rocky bluffs around the shores of the beautiful, shimmering waters of Percy Priest Lake.

Although King, 66, loved Mother Nature, he was not your typical outdoorsman, said King's long-time friend, John Stuart, of Smyrna.

Stuart is among the stunned fans and friends of Paul King, the popular publisher of the magazine, Tennessee Outdoor News, who died unexpectedly at his Murfreesboro residence on January 13, 2006.

"Countless are the hours Paul and I spent combing through the rocks of the region, for Paul was an avid rock collector," Stuart said. "He loved collecting. And loved going fishing, but rock collecting was one of his biggest loves."

Fate Sanders-area resident Joe Hobbs knew the outdoorsman personally and professionally.

"For seven years, I did delivery of his monthly magazines around to various distribution points surrounding Percy Priest Lake," Hobbs said. "He was a good-hearted man, who loved the outdoors, and treated everyone good. He enjoyed life. I think many of his rocks that contain fossils are on display at MTSU where he had a professor friend."

"Paul will be greatly missed," added angler Ken Dobson, who fishes Percy Priest waters five days a week. "I'd fish seven days, if not for God and my wife.

"Every month, I'd get Paul's magazine and read every story in it, particularly the fishing stories," Dodson said. "I learned a lot from his magazine."

Smyrna fisherman Harold Taylor described Paul King as a "naturalist who believed in preserving our beautiful scenic wooded waterways of Tennessee.

"He had a lot of good, informative articles that I learned from," Taylor added.

And there was another side to the man, Stuart added.

"Paul loved kids, and for the past 10 years, Paul and I sponsored Paul's Kids Fishing Rodeo at Stewart Creek Boat Ramp," said Stuart, father of famous country music vocalist Marty Stuart. "Each June, we'd have more than 100 kids lined up fishing around the cove here.

"The Bunny Bread place in Murfreesboro would load the back end of my pickup with day-old bread, and we'd come out to the lake the previous day, and load Paul's pontoon boat down with bread," Stuart accounted. "Then, we'd bait the cove with the bread for the kids to catch all kinds of fish the next day. And the fish would come."

Stuart recalled one "particularly humorous, almost unbelievable fishing rodeo story" involving Paul and Marty.

"Paul had invited Marty, and his wife, Connie Smith, out to the fishing rodeo, and we decided to go out on the lake and cast a line ourselves after the kids got through," the elder Stuart noted.

"Low and behold, Marty cast out into the water, and his lure caught into the bill of nearby duck," Stuart said. "That turned into a very exciting situation, as that duck took wing and started flying round and round in circles, hooked by its beak at the end of Marty's fishing line.

"Marty turned around, and asked: 'Dad, what should I do?" and I said initially, 'I don't know' but Paul told us to reel that old duck in just like it was a fish, which we did," Stuart said. "When the duck got close enough to the boat, I reached out and cut the line to give the duck its freedom. My son may be the only person to ever cast for crappie, and catch a duck. I'd give a hundred dollars if we had a picture of that duck flying in a circle above our boat."

This story brought John Stuart to describe "another side" of Paul King, outdoorsman.

"Paul had a way with animals, they trusted him, to the point ducks and geese would come up and let him rub their old heads, while they'd quack and honk contentedly, for they knew Paul was their friend," Stuart said.

"One day, while fishing from the back end of Paul's boat, he whistled three times. Ducks from all around the lake came flying in within seconds. Paul would reward them with a loaf of day-old Bunny Bread. The next day after Marty had hooked that duck, Paul whistled out over the lake, and the duck with the hook still in its mouth, came flying in. Paul reached out and gently removed the fish hook from the duck's beak. He even had a name for most the ducks that reside on Percy Priest Lake."

John's wife, retired Murfreesboro banker Hilda Stuart, often helped with the fishing rodeos.

"Paul had a way with kids and animals," Hilda Stuart recalled. "He couldn't stand for children to be mistreated. That's why we helped him with the rodeo each of the last 10 years. We love kids too. When Paul put the word out, underprivileged children would come, mostly from La Vergne, Murfreesboro and Smyrna.

"Paul would walk around the edge of the lake, sometimes with Marty and John, and talk to the little children, who would excitedly share their fish tales," Hilda added.

"I remember tears coming to Paul's eyes during one rodeo, when a little girl, who had caught a large old smelly carp, and the girl felt sorry for it, and was standing by the lake, crying and caressing that old fish, sorry that it had that painful hook in its mouth, and Paul helped her release the old carp back into the water," she said. "He couldn't take seeing a child shed tears."

Professional fishing guide Mitch Tinney, a columnist in Tennessee Outdoor News, shared the loss of Paul King with his readers.

"It saddens our hearts to announce the passing of Paul King, founder of Tennessee Outdoor News," Tinney penned. "Paul was a devout Christian, a dedicated amateur geologist. His dedication to our wonderful state was one of the cornerstones of his persona."

Outdoor columnist Tony Smotherman also shared the community's loss.

"Paul will be missed every day, especially the 14th of every month, when he'd call to let me know it was time to send in my piece," Smotherman lamented. "He'd always encourage me when I shared a new outdoor challenge, by saying 'You go boy.' I guess it's my turn to say, 'You go boy,' the Man upstairs is waiting."

By Dan Whittle

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