Editor’s Note: Long-time editor of Gun Digest and the Standard Catalog of Firearms Jerry Lee passed away Nov. 1, 2019, leaving a gaping hole in the Gun Digest family. An encyclopedic knowledge of guns—new and old—Lee brought authoritative expertise to every gun publication he touched … and he touched many in a career that spanned decades. What follows is Gun Digest Books Publisher Jim Schlender’s remembrance of a towing figure in gun writing from the December 2019 issue of Gun Digest.
My only regret about meeting Jerry Lee is that it wasn’t sooner. It was April 2011, and the Gun Digest business was in desperate need of someone to step up and help carry the torch. My friend, Gun Digest books editor Dan Shideler, had died unexpectedly, leaving us with a gaping hole in our publishing plans.
Jerry and I arranged to meet at the NRA convention in Pittsburgh, and by the time we were done talking about his family, his beloved home state of Texas, deer hunting, publishing and, of course, firearms, I was confident that “The World’s Greatest Gun Book” would continue in more-than-capable editorial hands, as strong as ever.
Jerry’s polite and calm demeanor belied his deep understanding of all things in the world of firearms. If anyone had a right to brag about his well-earned knowledge of gun hardware, it was Jerry. But that wasn’t his way. Instead, the knowledge Jerry had cataloged during decades of industry work as a researcher, writer and editor just naturally rose to the top of every conversation.
Every time Jerry and I spoke, I was reminded that whatever I thought I knew about gun history, pricing and collecting was still only a fraction of the many things this soft-spoken gentleman had already learned—and I always felt as if I had gained something valuable just for having taken the time to chat with my new friend.
Jerry could have accepted the challenge of the new job I was offering him and then just coasted. After all, his days of participating in the full-time publishing grind were pretty much over, so I don’t think anyone would have blamed him for taking it easy.
But Jerry was a true professional, and he deeply cared about presenting firearms history accurately to those who would appreciate it. He treasured everything about the world of the gun, and sharing that appreciation was ingrained in his personality. He eventually also took on editing duties for our Standard Catalog of Firearms annual pricing guide and then contributed his insights to the “Collector’s Corner” column for Gun Digest the Magazine. So much for coasting!
Jerry Lee stepped up at a time when Gun Digest needed the help of someone special to continue its legacy as the industry’s most storied brand. I’m grateful for that but even more so for the example he set and what he taught me during the few short years I knew him.
Rest in peace, Jerry.