On Jan. 27, 2000, Joe H. Graham was appointed Executive Director of NRA Publications. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “I am very pleased to have Joe Graham joining our ranks. Joe has a proven track record of executive level marketing and sales management, and with decades of professional experience in the outdoors industry and in the publication of specialty magazines, he is eminently qualified to lead NRA Publications into the next century.” That he did-and then some.
Graham had previously been the publisher of Petersen’s Hunting and Bowhunting magazines, and before that he spent 20 years at Pentax, rising to the level of chief operating officer. He met with our senior editorial staff for the first time at the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show on his first day. Commanding in stature and decisive, his first question for me was: “Mark, when do the next magazines ship?” When I told him it was in a few days, he said, “Good. Two things. First take [the previous executive director’s] name out and put in mine. ... And, next, take the word ‘managing’ out from in front of yours.” Thus, I became the editor of American Rifleman.
Graham had carte blanche from LaPierre to “fix” NRA’s magazines. He created an extremely strong sales organization, bringing much needed revenue into NRA. He added new titles and new properties. He would often say, “If you can’t do your job, I’ll find someone who can.” But he didn’t have to do so. In later years, he would say, “I just got out of your way,” but really he led the NRA Publications Division from the front. He has the mind of a businessman, the heart of a hunter, a ready smile and can sell aluminum siding to a guy living in a brick house. And he could write, really write, as he proved in “Hunting Heritage: A Flintlock Afield,” (April 2001, p. 54).
Graham was tasked with making magazines worthy of NRA members-a job at which he excelled. There were setbacks and successes, far more of the latter, as he led us into the digital publishing age. Today there are three different digital versions of American Rifleman and American Hunter, two vibrant websites of the same names and two electronic newsletters. America’s 1st Freedom is offered digitally, and InSights and Shooting Sports USA are digital-only. We have Shooting Illustrated and its website, and, of course, 23 seasons of “American Rifleman Television.” Under his watch, NRA Publications has won a combined 11 Eddie and Ozzie awards from Folio:, considered the most prestigious awards for editorial and design excellence in the national publishing industry.
During the past 13 years, Graham provided leadership, vision, guidance and, yes, some stern admonishments. His legacy is in your hands: Quality magazines worthy of NRA’s membership. On Jan. 5, 2014, Graham started a well-deserved retirement. Thanks, Joe; you will be missed.
He likely would disapprove of this praise, but seeing as he is retired and all, there’s not much he can do about it. Just like any other NRA member, Mr. Graham, you can write a letter to the editor if there’s something in this column you don’t like.