NTA: The Early Years, Part Two

The following text was written by NTA co-founder Charlie Fleming of Georgia in 1980. It describes the end of the first decade of existence for the National Taxidermist Association, the formation of the National Taxidermist Hall of Fame and the struggle to get it off the ground. It also describes the early conventions, including the first judged taxidermy competition of the new organization. This is part two of this text. Part one of this history can be found here.

As a ever-changing institution, the National Taxidermists Association is currently undergoing a challenging period. But even in the early years of this organization there were disputes over by-laws, funds and power struggles. Before he died in 1991, Charlie Fleming gave me this manuscript detailing his story of the first decade of the National Taxidermists Association. Here is the second installment, for the years 1977 through 1980.

History of the National Taxidermists Association
by Charles E. Fleming


Hall of Fame Committee met in Albany, New York, January 7, 1977. Many issues were brought out, such as deceased persons nominated to Hall of Fame. Some of the first nominees to the Hall of Fame listed, and people assigned to secure examples of their work. Some of the people assigned to this task did a good job. Some did not have much success.

Leon Pray Joe Bruchac — Yes
Al Pfleuger Bob Davis — No success
Frank Schwarz Paul Schwarz — Yes
Coleman Jonas Onno Van Veen — Yes
Carl Akeley Charlie Fleming and additional help welcomed – Limited success. Fleming secured 52 pictures of Akeley’s work, and Norm Meyer borrowed a pigmy elephant head from Smithsonian Institution mounted by Akeley.
John Rowley Sam Touchstone — No success
Louis Paul Jonas Luther Ertel and John Durgala — Yes
George Lesser Renaldo Pepi, Luther Ertel, John Durgala — Limited success
Cecil Tose Renaldo Pepi and Bob Berry — No success
James L. Clark Wm. Lee Birch — Secured from Cleveland Museum of Natural Science
Robert H. Rockwell Anyone help — No success yet
Raymond Harper Charlie Fleming and additional help welcome — Limited success
D. M. Wooster Luther Ertel — No success yet
Ike Shaw Bob Davis – No success, but Charlie Fleming did buy a tarpon mounted by lke Shaw for $125.00, repaired it, and gave it to the Hall of Fame.
Bill Biederman Jim Mackrell — Yes
Adolph Stache, Sr. Jim Mackrell — Yes
E.H. Self Bob Davis — Yes
Bob White Joe Bruchac — No success yet

There were many more nominees, but no resumés on them at the time. Some have since been secured.


Board Meeting called to order. All members present except Vice President Bert Van Dyke and Director Dan Chase. A proposal for code of ethics was proposed to the Board, and general discussion followed. This code of ethics was later adopted by the Board.

Total assets at this time were $17,806.73. it was decided at the next convention prizes would be given to some lucky winners. Purpose is to increase membership and attendance at the convention. This was the first meeting where a motion was made to expel a member from the association. This was a bomb shell dropped on the Board. The member in question was not expelled. The voting was very close. Many other issues were taken up, and can be found in the minutes dated January 8, 1977. It was decided the 1978 convention to be held in Denver, Colorado. The weather was extremely bad when this Board Meeting was held, with snow and ice everywhere.


President Fleming called the meeting to order at 8:25 p.m., with all members present except Dan Chase.

Code of Ethics prepared by Onno Van Veen and Committee were voted on and adopted. lt was voted that this Code of Ethics be printed in the next newsletter. Another subject adopted was the beginning of NTA to start holding taxidermy competition at next convention. Winners to be awarded ribbons for first, second and third places, and our members to vote on the winners. Many other issues discussed can be found in minutes of this meeting. This was the second Board Meeting under Fleming’s administration, as one had been cut out to save expenses.


Joe Bruchac, Chairman of this convention, had put together a fine convention. He had closed-circuit TV, so everyone could see the demonstrations well. The members could visit the Albany Natural History Museum. There were some fine demonstrations conducted by some very good taxidermists, as follows: Duck Mounting by Larry Clingerman, Deer Head Mounting by Dick Dove, Game Rug Making by Harry Paulson, Antelope Head Mounting by Terry Ehrlich, Fiberglass Chopper Gun Seminar by Al Braddock, Fish Mounting by Tony Gilyard, Fiberglass Reproductions by Archie Phillips, Phil Dillion put on a Magic Show, and several good films were shown, including our own copy of “The Right to Hunt.”

Another Open Meeting held at this convention. The Board was again criticized by a few people. Notes were taken and later answered in the Newsletter.

Charlie Fleming was elected again for a second term. New officers and board were: President — Charlie Fleming, Vice President — Luther Ertel, Secretary — Deanna Ehrlich, Treasurer — Paul Schwarz. Board of Directors: Bob Davis (Honorary, Past President), Bob Berry, Wm. Lee Birch, Joe E. Bruchac, Marion Bruchac, Lannie Ballard, Dan Chase, Bud Jones, Tim Kelly, James Mackrell, Norman Meyer, Paul C. Schwarz, Sam Touchstone.

One of the big problems confronting the Board of Directors and the Hall of Fame Committee was the selection of someone to the Hall of Fame, and the guidelines to go by. Most of the guidelines had been worked out as to who would qualify for nomination into the Hall of Fame. The method of selecting someone after they had been nominated was a perplexing problem that had not been resolved.


A meeting was held in Denver, Colorado, on February 17, 1978, to try and resolve some of the problems confronting the Hall of Fame. Mr. Joe Kish, publisher of Taxidermy Review Magazine, had criticized NTA in one of his editorials. Luther Ertel challenged Mr. Kish to present NTA with a workable plan, and he accepted the challenge.

Hall of Fame meeting called to order by Norm Meyer, Chairman. Members present: John Cook, Luther Ertel, Jim Mackrell and Charlie Fleming. Charlie Fleming had presented an outline of a plan to Jim Mackrell the night before, and Jim asked Charlie to present it to the Committee the next day, which he did after all preliminaries were finished.

Fleming’s plan for selecting living or dead taxidermists into the Hall of Fame: A person must be nominated by another taxidermist and a member of NTA. He also must have two other known taxidermists to co-sign as supporters. A complete resume of the person nominated, along with the sponsors. sent to the Chairman. The Chairman presents this to Committee, and a vote taken as to whether the Committee feels person is worthy for the Hall of Fame. This used to be voice vote, but now changed to written secret vote. If the votes are majority for person nominated, then Chairman presents this to NTA Board of Directors. They, in turn, take a vote. This also used to be voice vote, but now changed to secret written vote. If the majority is for the person going into the Hall of Fame, then the name of sponsors and person nominated, with complete resumé of nominee, is published in NTA Newsletter. The members then vote on the nominee. The Hall of Fame Committee voted to adopt plan. Mr. Kish presented his plan to the Committee that afternoon. It was almost identical to Fleming’s plan, except Kish had suggested a Hall of Fame nominating committee instead of the members-at-large nominating a prospective candidate for Hall of Fame.


All members present. President Charlie Fleming called meeting to order at 8:30 a.m. Usual reports given. One main report was that Mr. Bruchac presented Treasurer with check for $7592 as the profit from convention he chaired. Mr. Bruchac was duly commended for a job well done. Many other items discussed and voted on. Wm. Lee Birch had been assigned by President Fleming to investigate an insurance program for the membership. Birch was successful where others had failed in obtaining a low-cost AD&D Policy for NTA, as well as a Group In-Hospital Plan. The proposals were adopted with 2 dissenting votes — Chase and Schwarz. lt was voted to go back to Biloxi for the 1979 convention, with John Cook as Chairman. A vote was taken to pay the Convention Chairman $1500 or 20%, whichever was greatest, on profit made at convention. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.


This was a beautiful, well-run convention. This was the first year of judged taxidermy competition. There were some excellent entries. Outstanding demonstrations: Fish Mounting Seminar by Jim Hall; Input Seminar, moderated by Bob Berry assisted by others; Sculpturing Seminars by Harry Paulson; Bird Mounting by Tony Gilyard; and Mold Making by Bob Berry. There was a tour of the Denver Museum. Great speakers were obtained for convention.

Saturday night after the banquet and new officers elected for next year, Charlie Fleming gave his farewell address, and was able to say the membership had grown to its highest number of members, and that he had kept all promises made. There was a standing ovation for him, and a dozen red roses presented to his wife Margie for all her work in the NTA.

Mr. Onno Van Veen had run a most successful convention. One important meeting that occurred during President Charlie Fleming’s administration was the meeting on March 29, 1977, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, between Luther Ertel, Jim Mackrell and Charlie Fleming with representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about permits for the Hall of Fame. Mr. Bill Kensinger, Mr. Leo Badger, and Mr. L. Loyd Lindvall represented U.S. Fish and Wildlife. After a lengthy meeting and a trip to the Hall of Fame site, Mr. Kensinger said a permit would be issued for housing migratory protected birds taken before they were protected.

The new slate of officers elected in Denver was: President — Sam Touchstone, Bossier City, Louisiana; Vice President — Archie Phillips, Fairfield, Alabama; Secretary — Marion Bruchac, Greenfield Center, New York; Treasurer — Paul Schwarz, St. Louis, Missouri. Board of Directors: John O. Cook. Biloxi. Mississippi: Boh Berry. San Diego. California: Wm. Lee Birch, Cleveland, Ohio; Joe Bruchac, Greenfield Center, New York; Luther Ertel, Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Lannie D. Ballard, Woodbridge, Virginia; Dan Chase, Baker, Louisiana; R. F. (Bud) Jones, Tallapoosa, Georgia; Tim Kelly, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Terry Ehrlich, Chester, South Carolina; Norman Meyer, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The first Board Meeting was held after the banquet in Denver, with President Touchstone presiding. One item to be resolved was a member and a Board member that had to be resolved. This was done at this meeting. Other items were also discussed.

Shortly after Mr. Touchstone assumed Presidency of NTA, he had a heart attack, and was handicapped for a good portion of the year. Mrs. Lura Touchstone, wife, and members of their firm conducted the affairs of NTA.


The opening of the Hall of Fame was to be the next day. Mr. Asper had done a magnificent job in the work of the Hall of Fame building. Vice President Archie Phillips called meeting to order due to President Touchstone’s absence. All Board Members were present except Tim Kelly. Luther Ertel presented an award to Jim Mackrell on behalf of NTA for services rendered 1971-1978. Norm Meyer gave report on Hall of Fame. Visitors to the meeting were Mr. and Mrs. Paul Asper, and Dana Poust. Mr. Asper presented checks to NTA, even though the Hall of Fame was not officially open. They had visitors paying to go through already. A big game rifle was presented to Onno Van Veen for the good job he did as Convention Chairman. Mr. Van Veen cleared $6000 from Denver Convention, and the Board was very grateful, as all expected to just break even. No other convention chairman in the past had been confronted with expenses as those in Denver. Many other items were discussed. Meeting adjourned at 12:45 p.m., to reconvene next evening at 8:00 p.m.


Buses took the Board Members to the Hall of Fame dedication. Many officials were present; among them were representatives of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Asper treated the Board to an excellent lunch at their trophy and party room! Another Board Meeting was conducted that night at 8:10 p.m., presided over by Archie Phillips. John Rinehart, a controversial figure in NTA, addressed the Board of Directors. We were all trying to forget the past and start over. Wm. Lee Birch made a presentation for Convention 1980 to be held in Cleveland, Ohio. Carried. Also a plan was presented to combat the $50 import fee regulation the U.S. Fish and Wildlife people were trying to initiate against the taxidermist. Suggestion was made that someone go to Washington and address the Committee at their hearing. Many other items discussed. Meeting adjourned at 10:45 p.m.

Wm. Lee Birch was sent to Washington, D.C., to speak before the Committee that was trying to get the $50 import fee passed. Between Jonas of Denver, and many other taxidermists and supply companies, writing letters, and Birch’s speech, the import fee was dropped. (Comment: This is a good example of what people can do if enough get behind a program and work to stop it, or get it passed. This depends on the issue.)


President Touchstone, Vice President Archie Phillips, Secretary Marion Bruchac, Directors — Lannie Ballard, Wm. Lee Birch, Marion and Joe Bruchac, John Cook, Terry Ehrlich, Luther Ertel, Tim Kelly, Norm Meyer. Absent: Paul Schwarz, Treasurer, and Directors Bob Berry, Dan Chase, Charlie Fleming, and Bud Jones. Proxy of Paul Schwarz given to Luther Ertel. Proxies of Charlie Fleming and Bud Jones given to Wm. Lee Birch. Motion by Wm. Lee Birch to clarify By-laws. (These motions can be found in minutes of Board Meeting.) There were many important events in the minutes ot this Board Meeting too numerous to mention here. Any member desiring a copy of these should contact the secretary of NTA.


Meeting called to order by President Touchstone. Following Officers and Board Members present: President Sam Touchstone, Vice President Archie Phillips, Secretary Marion Bruchac, Treasurer Paul Schwarz, Directors — Joe and Marion Bruchac, John Cook, Luther Ertel, Terry Ehrlich, Lannie Ballard, Dan Chase, Charles Fleming, Bud Jones, Norm Meyer, and Wm. Lee Birch. Absent: Tim Kelly and Bob Berry.

Usual preliminaries dispensed with. Paul Schwarz said NTA owes Sam Touchstone a vote of thanks for what he had done for NTA. Assets at this time were $28,807, of which a goodly portion is held in reserve to pay the monthly premiums to the insurance company. Treasurer was authorized to pay Safari Club dues in president’s name.

Discussion of how to deal with people and suppliers who have been complained about. Archie Phillips made suggestion to Ethics Committee to state complaints in NTA Newsletter and response of complaint. Hall of Fame report by Norm Meyer: He had made seven trips that year looking at collections. Jim Mackrell is to try to secure a passenger pigeon. Charlie Fleming suggested the criteria for Hall of Fame be printed in Newsletter. Insurance report by Wm. Lee Birch. Suggested that NTA take out one-year liability insurance policy. Motion made by Luther Ertel, seconded by Joe Bruchac, and carried, that, if Wm. Lee Birch can get liability insurance policy for $69.00, he is authorized to get it. Archie Phillips gave framework for organizing State Chapters. John Cook gave report on progress of convention. Motion was made by Charlie Fleming, seconded by Dan Chase, and carried, that we rewrite the By-laws completely, and Onno Van Veen to be Chairman. The committee to consist of Luther Ertel, Terry Ehrlich, Wm. Lee Birch, and they would make their presentation to the Board. Eight votes for, six against. Motion by Charlie Fleming, seconded by Archie Phillips, and carried, that all past presidents receive copies of all correspondence mailed out concerning the association. Motion by Charlie Fleming, seconded by Archie Phillips, and carried, that all past presidents, without notice, can sit in on board meeting and participate in the meeting at the discretion of the President. Motion made by Luther Ertel and passed that the NTA should hire an executive secretary on an hourly pay basis. Ertel then moved that Marion Bruchac be hired for this position. Motion passed.


This convention was a real nice affair. Due to gas shortage, did not have as many to attend as in the past, but it was a good convention. There were seminars by Jim Hall on fish taxidermy. Renaldo Pepi gave a lecture and demonstration on caring of your skins and furs before sending to tannery. Larry Bloomquist gave demonstration on mounting game head. Charlie Fleming showed a slide presentation on mounting a dove. A life-size bear was mounted by Ronnie Cook and others. Many programs were conducted, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Saturday night at the banquet, Mr. Joe Bruchac was honored by being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is the first living taxidermist to be so honored. it was decided at this convention that State Chapters were to be formed. Chairman for these chapters appointed that night.

Election results were announced: President — Tim Kelly, Vice President — Wm. Lee Birch, Secretary — Marion Bruchac, Treasurer — Onno Van Veen, Directors — Sam Touchstone (honorary), Lannie Ballard, Bob Berry, Joe Bruchac, Terry Ehrlich, John Cook, Luther Ertel, John Haegeman, Bud Jones, Gene Klineberger, Norman Meyer, Harry Paulson, and Dana Poust.


On October 13, 1979, a Hall of Fame Committee meeting was held in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by the full Board Meeting, at the Cleveland Plaza Hotel. This was an inspection visit, as well as a Board Meeting, to see the facilities chosen for the 1980 Convention. (This facility was sold later before the Convention, and the Convention Chairman had to move all parts of the Convention to Stouffer’s lnn on the Square.) John Cook gave a verbal report on the Biloxi Convention, because his luggage in which he had his written report was mislaid by the airlines. He indicated that the profit from the Biloxi Convention would be approximately $1600.00. Bud Jones, Chairman of the Ethics Committee, spoke relative to two tanneries which had not answered calls or correspondence, both in the northeast part of the country. Lannie Ballard reported on his committee work with the NRA’s Denali Register, and urged all taxidermists who wanted to be listed, who could provide and fulfill the necessary requirements, to do so. He reported on his quest for applicants for an Executive Secretary for a semi—permanent basis. Terry Ehrlich reported on his work on the By-Laws Committee, and a lot of work he had done. Norman Meyer, as Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee, gave a report on that body’s meeting, its aspirations and needs. Wm. Lee Birch, as Convention Chairman, took the group for a tour of the facilities with the Hotel Sales Manager, and all looked well for a successful convention. Birch entered a motion for President Kelly to appoint a committee to study the feasibility of the NTA setting up a low-interest rate loan fund to be made available to NTA members of long-standing, for use of their dependents for educational purposes taking taxidermy-related courses in accredited Institutions of learning. Birch pointed out that this could be the biggest factor for attracting new members and retaining old members on a continuous basis to the NTA, as it would serve members with children and grandchildren for financial assistance for their education. President Kelly later appointed Luther Ertel as Chairman, Bud Jones, Harry Paulson, Rodney Loesch and himself to the Committee. A foundation set up for the money to revolve as students or their parents repaid the loans could be an ongoing project of great interest to members, and possibly it could be combined with a Hall of Fame Foundation.

Following the closing of the Board Meeting, committees met to select judges for the forthcoming taxidermy competition, the seminars and who could do them, and other matters pertaining to the Convention.


The Hall of Fame Committee met in Atlanta to participate in the program of inducting Charlie Fleming into the Hall of Fame. Friday morning, February 1, 1980, the Georgia Senate read a resolution on the Senate floor honoring Charlie Fleming, and introduced the Hall of Fame Committee who were seated in the gallery. Charlie Fleming was then escorted across the hall to the Georgia House of Representatives by Fiscal Officer Cary Bond. Speaker of the House, Tom Murphy, and Representative Sidney Marcus read another resolution honoring Charlie Fleming, and, again, the Hall of Fame Committee was recognized. Charlie was then escorted to the podium, and allowed to address the House of Representatives. Friday night, a banquet was held at the Stadium Hotel in honor of Charlie’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Governor George Busbee, Secretary of State David Poythress, Fiscal Officer Cary Bond, and Joe Hurt of Joseph Hurt Studios were the main speakers. Over 200 people attended.


Those attending the meeting at the Stadium Hotel were President Tim Kelly, Secretary Marion Bruchac, Treasurer Onno Van Veen, Directors —— Lannie Ballard, Bob Berry, Joe Bruchac, John Cook, Terry Ehrlich, Luther Ertel, John Haegeman, Bud Jones, Gene Klineburger, Norm Meyer, Harry Paulson, and Dana Poust. Absent: Wm. Lee Birch, on safari; Sam Touchstone, in hospital. Proxy for Birch given to Luther Ertel, and proxy for Sam Touchstone given to Joe Bruchac. Visitors attending meeting were Karen Kinnaird, John Rinehart, and Jerry Atkinson. Resolution made by Tim Kelly that NTA recognize the participation and involvement of Charles Haynes (who recently passed away) in organizing the NTA. Treasurer‘s Report showed total of $30,974.44, including insurance reserve. Many items discussed, such as hiring an executive secretary, listing of taxidermists in the Denali Register of the American Hunter Magazine (accomplished by Lannie Ballard), appointing two more people to Hall of Fame Committee, Convention date for Cleveland to be set back one day. Many other subjects were discussed.


At Stouffer’s Inn on the Square in downtown Cleveland your N.T.A. Board met with all present except Bob Berry. In the pre-convention report the chairman and N.T.A. V.P. indicated that there would be a bigger attendance, more items in the competition and more booths by exhibitors than ever before. With 80 new pegboard backgrounds made to specification and guaranteed for 4 years’ use, Wm. Lee Birch asked that the cost for same be prorated over 4 years Convention expenses. This request was passed. A safe dry storage place has been rented for $35.00 per month and they will he trucked to each Convention site prior to its Convention.

The Board heard presentations for 7 sites for the 1982 Convention which included Salt Lake City, Orlando, Baton Rouge, Reno, Rosemont (Illinois), Bucknell University and Wichita. The latter was chosen for 8, 9, & 10, July 1982.

Marion Bruchac & Wm. Lee Birch were interviewed for the position of Executive Secretary or Director. The latter was selected by your Board of Directors and given the title of Executive Director and Convention Coordinator.

Lannie Ballard, Chairman of the Denali Register Committee told of over 400 taxidermists listed in the new register and 2000 complimentary copies being donated to the N.T.A. by the N.R.A. You will get one soon.

Because N.T.A. has no elected Secretary this year Pres. Tim Kelly added one more Director from those who were running for office. This addee to hold office for 1 year and to be the candidate who received the next highest number of votes cast for Directors. The Pennsylvania chapter of the N.T.A. returned the $100.00 “seed” money advanced for its foundation to the N.T.A. Treasury.

Hall Of Fame Committee reported that it now has non-profit status as a Museum and Foundation. New criteria for Hall Of Fame nominees was announced by Charles Fleming: Each must have 2 co-signers and at least 50% of the membership must vote on the nominee and at least 2/3 of that vote must be in favor of.

The Board voted to discontinue the members insurance program as of Dec. 31, 1980. Dues to remain at $20.00.

A motion was passed that the N.T.A. condemn any member who KNOWINGLY violates any Federal or State wildlife act. After conviction the N.T.A. Board will review the case and judge whether or not the member be reprimanded.


Wm. Lee Birch, Convention Chairman was commended for chairing an outstanding Convention. Charles Fleming was appointed Historian of the N.T.A. by Pres. Tim Kelly who also requested The Hall Of Fame consider certain changes in the existing rules for nomination and election to the Hall Of Fame. Funding for the Executive Director was discussed and passed. Pres. Tim Kelly stated that he planned to establish a new Committee to consider the election of Board members by individual state chapters. This to be done by establishing regions composed of 5 or more state chapters with each region electing a Board member. Other Directors and the Officers would be elected “at large” according to the present method. Lannie Ballard was elected to act as a Committee of one as liaison between N.T.A. and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. A further motion was passed to implement any necessary action to the limit of the Treasury in the event of Federal harassment as a result of his efforts on behalf of the NTA. The subject of an annual report for the N.T.A. to its members in the format of the Wisconsin Taxidermists Associations Annual was discussed. A motion was made and passed that the Executive Director evaluate the proposal and report back with his decision for Board action.

The preceding history of the N.T.A. was written by Charlie Fleming, N.T.A. past President, member of the Hall of Fame Committee and one of the two living Hall of Fame inductees in 1908. The other living member was Joseph Bruchac, Past President of the N.T.A. and N.T.A. Director.

In 1980, the deceased members of the N.T.A. Hall Of Fame were: Matthew O. Huusko, Leon Pray, Lee Loomis, Al Pflueger, Frank Schwarz, Coleman Jonas, Carl Akeley, John Rowley, Louis Paul Jonas, George Lesser, James L. Clark, Robert H. Rockwell, Raymond Harper, D. M. Wooster, Ike Shaw, Bill Riederran, Adolph Stache, Sr., Karl Schwarz, J.W. Elwood, Bob White and E. H. Self.

The first part of this two-part manuscript can be found at NTA History: The First Five Years (Part One).

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