Springfield, MO

The Springfield billionaire leading America's conservation movement

Ash Jurberg

I write a lot of articles about entrepreneurs and business leaders.

While it's great to write about their success, readers love to hear about what they are doing to give back to their local communities.

One man who is doing that is Johnny Morris.

Let's take a quick look at his story.

Becoming a billionaire

Johnny Morris was born in Springfield in 1948 and attended Drury College in Springfield. While at college, he fell in love with the emerging sport of bass fishing and spent five years on the professional circuit.

He decided to turn his passion into a business and, in 1972, began selling fish tackle from the back of his father's liquor store. That venture covered only eight square feet but was the start of what was to become Bass Pro Shops.

In 1978 he introduced Bass Tracker, the world’s first “fish ready” professionally rigged and nationally marketed boat, motor, and trailer package, which he claimed revolutionized the marine industry.

Johnny continued to grow the business over the next few decades, but perhaps his most significant move was in September 2017, when Bass Pro Shops paid $5.5 billion to acquire Cabela's, which almost doubled the size of his business.

His Bass Pro group also owns White River Marine Group, the world's largest boat manufacturer.

Bass Pro Shops now has almost 200 retail stores and marine centers across North America and welcomes more than 200 million visitors annually. The flagship store in Springfield has more than four million visitors each year.

This has led to Johnny Morris having a net worth of $5.8 billion.

Conservation

Johnny has always been passionate about conservation and preserving wildlife and habitats.

Through his business, he supports numerous causes and invests in programs and initiatives aligned with his commitment to conservation. This includes projects and organizations working in the following areas:

  • conserving Wildlife and Habitat
  • connecting new audiences to the Outdoors
  • advocating for access and sportsmen’s rights
  • supporting military and veterans
  • strengthening communities in the Missouri Ozarks
“As for our priorities, our customers are partners in conservation. When it comes to giving back to the community, we always want to make it about more than just money. Our stores offer a channel—a way to communicate with some causes that can’t advocate for themselves otherwise.Conservation is at the heart and soul of Bass Pro Shops.We share a steadfast belief that the future of our industry, and the outdoor sports we all love, depends — more than anything else — on how we manage our natural resources." Johnny Morris

In 2017 Morris spent $300 million to build the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield. He wanted this to help boost tourism numbers in Springfield and Missouri.

Johnny and his family received the Audubon Medal in 2019 to recognize their conservation efforts. Johnny Morris is "often referred to as a modern-day Theodore Roosevelt for his leadership, personal commitment, and dedication to conservation efforts."

While Morris is passionate about conservation, it isn't the only issue he supports. For example, in July last year, he donated two million dollars towards houses for wounded veterans.

Readers, what do you think of Johnny's story? And what other Springfield organizations would you like to see him support?

Please leave your comments below.

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