June 28, 2023
Hall of Fame waterfowl legend Marion McCollum, the CEO and president of Mack's Prairie Wings (MPW) in Stuttgart, Ark. died late last week at the age of 81.
The company made the announcement via a Thursday evening Facebook post.
"It is with heavy hearts that we share the shocking and devastating news of the passing of our legend, Marion McCollum, who dedicated his life to teaching the next generation the heritage of the outdoor sportsman,” said the MPW post. “Mack’s Prairie Wings may never be the same, but we assure you that his legacy will continue on as we serve our customers the way Marion taught us.
Remembering Mack McCollum
Tributes to McCollum quickly poured in from across the waterfowling world.
“The waterfowling community has lost an icon,” noted Ducks Unlimited in a Twitter post. “Marion McCollum, President and CEO of Mack’s Prairie Wings was a dedicated conservationist and a pioneer in the hunting apparel industry. He used his influence to educate young people about the importance of conservation and inspire the next generation of outdoorsmen and women. He was also a proud Ducks Unlimited supporter and Legacy Sponsor. His passing creates a tremendous void in the outdoor community, but he leaves behind a lasting conservation legacy that will far outlive his time on this earth.”
DU also noted that its former president, George Dunklin, also a legend in Arkansas’ waterfowling circles, mourned the passing of McCollum.
“It’s difficult to describe what a person like Marion McCollum meant to Stuttgart and the waterfowl nation,” said Dunklin. “He was a friend to everyone that walked into his beloved store, Mack’s Prairie Wings, and a true innovator in waterfowl retailing.
“But more than that, he was a gentleman, and he would do anything in his power to help your cause. Marion was my Co-Chairman of the Arkansas County Ducks Unlimited Sponsor Event for over a dozen years. He was always the life of the party and loved by everyone that knew him. I, along with many others at DU and across the waterfowling community, mourn the passing of this great man.”
Dunklin—the owner of the Five Oaks Lodge—told Little Rock TV news station KARK about the first time that the two friends met in 1988, when Dunklin needed some assistance with his work.
In recalling the first words that McCollum ever spoke to him, "What can I do to help?" the former DU president and Arkansas duck hunter said the question was followed by a smile and a firm handshake, forming the bedrock of Dunklin and McCollum's friendship that lasted more than 40-years.
"Marion was a guy you thought would live forever," Dunklin was quote in saying, reportedly with tears in his years. "He was bigger than life."
McCollum’s passing made most news sites in Arkansas, where he was a legendary figure in the Razorback State. That’s understandable when you consider the history making impact he made in a state crazed about duck hunting and duck calling.
Looking Back at McCollum’s Life
A Stuttgart native, McCollum was born on Feb. 9, 1942 to Marion "Mack" McCollum and his wife Ruth. The elder McCollum would found the MPW parent company in the 1930s when he began selling rubber hip boots, Duxbax hunting coats, long underwear, Winchester shotguns, and shotgun shells from his business, McCollum's Hardware Store on Main Street in Stuttgart.
The waterfowling business was so good at Mack's hardware store that he eventually acquired the building next door according to the company's historical account. After cutting an archway into the wall separating the two stores, he moved the business next door and opened up Mack's Sport Shop in 1944.
In the early 1960s, Mack's son Marion, or M.T., Jr., joined his father full-time in the family business that would go on to make a mallard curly tail feather a nationwide retail symbol. By 1970, and nine years before Mack passed away in 1979, Marion was a part of the business moving to a 3,200-square foot building on Hwy. 79 in Stuttgart.
By 1993, Marion and Chuck Lock, Mack's PW executive vice president and a longtime McCollum friend, took the company down its next path to waterfowling immortality, adding a mail order catalog business called Mack's Prairie Wings.
In the aftermath of the MPW catalog's arrival—and another store enlargement to 18,000-square feet—the MPW catalog became a runaway success over the years, reportedly mailing out as many as 2.4 million catalogs in 2002 alone. By 2000, the success of the company demanded even more local retail and warehouse space, and the MPW family moved to Hwy. 63 in Stuttgart, a facility with more than 55,000-square feet..
According to the Stuttgart Daily Leader, in 2004, Ram Venture Holdings Corp. of Little Rock acquired MPW, with McCollum "...retaining ownership of the land and building while still serving as the company's president."
Today, MPW remains a fixture in Stuttgart, the "Rice and Duck Capital of the World," with a reported total of 120,000-square feet of space, including a 40,000-square foot retail showroom.
Among the various accomplishments of MPW on McCollum's watch were the duck hunting gear catalog's establishment in 1993; the MPW turkey hunting catalog in 1999; the arrival of MacksPW.com on the Internet in 2000; and the arrival of Mack's Marine Shop and War Eagle Boat Dealership established in 2017.
MPW also grew to become one of the nation's largest independent Benelli shotgun dealers; the nation's largest independent dealer for Banded, Sitka Gear, and Drake Waterfowl gear; and the number one Winchester Steel Shot independent dealer for 26-years and counting.
With McCollum at the helm during that growth, a number of honors have come his way. From 1995 to 2002, McCollum was an active member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. During that span, he also served as the Commission's chairman from 2001-02.
A life member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl , Waterfowl USA, and in 2007, McCollum was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.
A year later on Sept. 5, 2008, McCollum was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame and a few years after that, he received the Winchester Legend Award.
Other honors for McCollum included the Marion McCollum Greenlee Lake being named for him in 2001; the city of Stuttgart naming him "Citizen of the Year" in 2002; receiving the 6th annual Jerry Jones Sportsman's Award in 2010; and being inducted into the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame in 2016.
McCollum's MPW biography notes that he participated in teaching the boys and girls of today "...about hunting and fishing," with his MPW business striving in "Teaching the Next Generation the Heritage of the Outdoor Sportsman."
The late McCollum will be remembered by family and friends in a private ceremony, then his cremated ashes will be spread over a lake at his beloved Sunset Lodge in Roe, Ark. He is survived by JoAnn, his wife of 34 years; his son Dodd; his three daughters Jill, Ginger, and Sarah; the spouses of his children; and nine grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests making a gift payable to the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, Ark., 72205. The Marion McCollum Endowment Fund has also been established at the Foundation to support Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports. And finally, gifts in McCollum’s memory can also be made online to his longtime local church, First United Methodist in Stuttgart.