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Of Those Who Passed in 2020, Who Was The Most Influential?

Everyone's opinion matters, so here's mine. If you don't like it, tough: write your own article.

2020 is dead: let's not invite it back ever.

2020 was... a year. Filled with things most of us would just as soon forget. And yet, in this most difficult of years, we lost people who mattered: to us, to their families, to history. Of all those who passed during 2020, who do you feel did the most to change our world during their time on Earth? Who made such a difference that they literally changed history, forced an adaptation to something that still hasn't slowed down, that is continuing to change, adapt, make people's lives over, that is enjoyed by millions the world over; someone who assisted in the birth of something which is a part of the fabric of lives every single day of the year and who created an industry which is worth billions of dollars, and is still, even after their passing, making a difference in lives and is honored by an untold amount of people the world over? Someone who changed our life over fifty years ago, and is still touching us today.

I understand Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a Supreme Court Justice, and an influential person in her own right. She was held up by many as a leader for Women's Rights, as a person to be imitated by young women everywhere. We lost Chadwick Boseman, a leader for Black Equality in film; we lost Kobe Bryant, another hero to children who strive to better their lives through sports. Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island; Charlie Pride, Alex Trebek, Sean Connery, the original James Bond, Kirk Douglas and Kennie Rogers, to name a few. Actors, activists, authors, singers, and even sex therapists have been listed as those who left us in 2020, but nowhere have I seen my choice of most influential listed; nowhere. And I find that incredibly sad.

Forrest, Nina, and my family at his museum in Flippin. 2015

Forrest, Nina, and my family at his museum in Flippin. 2015

So, who is my choice?

So who do I feel made such a difference in the world, who changed the lives of so many, but who is overlooked, forgotten by those who make such lists?

Forrest L. Wood.

Don't know him? Don't recognize that name? How can the most influential person in the world be such an unknown to you? What did he do that was so incredible?

He built a boat. Yes, he built a boat. In 1968, Forrest began building boats behind a gas station in Flippin, Arkansas, population roughly 1,000; boats which would be used to bass fish on lakes across the nation. He built one, sold it; built two, sold them, and so on and so forth. Literally from scratch he built an industry that has gone on to cover the world, spawn hundreds of copycat designs, boat lines, companies. His boats became synonymous with bass fishing and his design became the prototype for bass fishing. His company, Ranger Bass Boats, was the bass boat for years and was the choice by fisherman to compete in the growing number of bass fishing tournaments which were held every weekend of the year across the nation. Then, the world. Japan, South Africa, you name it; Ranger Boats was known as the Cadillac of Bass Boats.

Forrest proudly showing off Nina and her presentation bowling ball from the Partners in Fishing Foundation.

Forrest proudly showing off Nina and her presentation bowling ball from the Partners in Fishing Foundation.

I knew Forrest...

I knew Forrest, having met him when I lived in Flippin. I played softball for one of the teams he sponsored; bowled against him one year. I knew two of his daughters, Rhonda and Donna, and have been to his house in Flippin. A few years ago, I took my wife and son to his museum there, and he showed up. As gracious as ever, this humble man (who would just as soon to be astride his favorite horse herding cattle) smiled, took pictures with us, and showed us around his museum with his lovely wife Nina.

Forrest walked with giants, with Presidents and other powerful people yet never, ever became one who reveled in his own popularity. B.A.S.S. used his boats as the official boat of their tournaments for 30 years, and he even has an entire bass fishing tournament series named in his honor.

If there is a fishing Hall of Fame, he's in it. Due to his boating designs, the industry associated with bass fishing encompasses tournaments held on literally every major lake in the country annually, and somewhere in America there is a tourney every single weekend of the year and has been for decades. Influence? Yeah, Forrest had it.

Forrest signing an autograph on his "Fishing Baseball Card" for Caleb.

Forrest signing an autograph on his "Fishing Baseball Card" for Caleb.

But nowhere is he listed as a person who passed in 2020

And that angers me. I know it wouldn't bother him a lick, but for those fortunate enough to have met him, spoken with him, enjoyed his presence it bothers us. He should get his due for the impact he had on the town of Flippin, for the donations he made to people just because he wanted to help, to the industries that benefited by his leadership, to the people who have made a living doing something that he helped develop, to all those who just enjoy a day on the lake fishing: he should be honored and remembered. Yet, no one says a word in the end of the year remembrances, in those lists of people who passed in 2020, or on the myriad of television shows who recall those who left us last year. Not one single reference that I have seen anywhere, no list, nothing.

And that is a shame.

Kind, gentle, brilliant. Honorable, charitable, a friend to all. Married to Nina for 68 years, four daughters. Creator of an industry which employs countless people, an industry which created enjoyment for millions around the world, for some to literally make their living fishing! Who was a spearhead for safety, for innovations still in use today. A hard working man who helped build Bull Shoals dam, who guided people fishing on the White River after it was built.

Forrest was worthy of our remembering him.

I will leave you with this...

Watch this video below. Ranger has been doing this for decades, cutting out sections of a boat to allow water to move about, into and through it in order to show just how unsinkable their boats are. I remember one of their commercials that had six or seven men standing in the boat, a half dozen cutouts in the hull, sides, everywhere and it refused to sink.

THAT is what Forrest pushed: safety above all, quality that will last a lifetime. He was an innovator, a champion for the environment, a philanthropist, a leader. And, he was a good man. We will miss him.

© 2021 Mr Archer