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Longtime OWAA member George Laycock died March 31. He was 92.
Laycock was known as a prolific writer who published more than 50 books and hundreds of magazine articles in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Popular Science. He also was a field
editor for Audubon magazine.
He joined OWAA in 1951 and received a Circle of Chiefs award in 1970 and the Excellence in Craft Award in 1983. He continued to support OWAA through the years with generous donations and his time.
“He was truly a pioneer in OWAA,” said Michael Frome, a fellow Chief.
In the golden era of outdoor writing in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, Laycock wrote a few “me and Joe” hunting and fishing stories, but focused on conservation writing, said Steve Maslowski, whose father Karl Maslowski was a fellow Chief and close friend to Laycock.
Laycock was one of earliest and most influential critics of strip mining and his writing caused changes in legislation to better regulate the practice, Maslowski said. He castigated bad environmental practices, but also championed good ones, such as the expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge system.
He was a quiet man, whose writing spoke for itself.
“George earned his keep by what he did, not how he showcased,” Maslowski said. He was also a man of principles, and never exaggerated or lied, in conversation or in his writing.
“George’s principles served him — and the nation — well, but presented a frighteningly high bar for the likes of me,” Maslowski said.
Yet Laycock was there to encourage and mentor Maslowski and the next generation of outdoor writers. What Maslowski learned from Laycock can still be applied to journalism today.
“George was driven to write, and in writing was driven to point out the truth, wherever it lay,” Maslowski said. “It’s a model for the ages.”
As the oldest Chief, Laycock was still among the most active, said Joel Vance, a fellow Circle of Chiefs recipient. Laycock always stepped up to help with the selection of a new Chief, or pitch in wherever he was needed, Vance said.
Laycock’s work for Audubon stretched decades and his books were varied.
“He was a true giant of conservation and nature writing,” Vance said. Ted Williams worked with Laycock at Audubon.
“Even at that organization, his love and advocacy for wildlife was legend,” Williams said. “When almost all his contemporaries had burned out as writers and fallen silent, George was cranking out great copy.”
Laycock often favored advocating for creatures like snakes, skunks, coyotes, bats and other wildlife unloved and unappreciated by the public. He also kept up on wildlife issues up until near his death, sending so many story ideas Williams had to pass about 95 percent on to other writers.
Rich Patterson, another Circle of Chiefs recipient, didn’t know Laycock well, but remembers reading his books and articles in college.
“He was a legend,” Patterson said.
Chris Madson, also a Chief, met Laycock at a meeting. Madson stole a day to visit the Gettysburg battlefield and when he mentioned it to Laycock the two talked into the night about the time period, the battle and the sacrifices of the soldiers.
“His deep knowledge of the subject, his imagination and enthusiasm were compelling,” Madson said. “He brought those elements to everything he wrote and presented them in a style that was simple, accurate and graceful.”
Laycock was a modest man and great listener, Madson said.
He was a true “gentle man,” quiet, yet confident, said George Harrison, a fellow Chief.
Laycock was a “hybrid,” a dedicated bird watcher who also loved to hunt and fish. He was a writer, and also a photographer, Harrison said.
“I believe that George Laycock was one of OWAA’s best,” he said.
Laycock, a World War II veteran, died in his hometown of Cincinnati. He had three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
For more on Laycock read the OWAA Legends piece written by Parker Bauer at https://owaa.org/owaa-legends/george-laycock/. ♦