A recent piece of published prose recognizing a lifetime of journalistic achievement was a rare but well appreciated tribute to this author who has enjoyed a decades-long career as both a newspaper journalist and an outdoor writer.
Being selected as one of only a handful of “Hunting Pioneers” by The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters is quite an honor for this Midwest country boy who came to Texas as just a lad and found a new home in the Lone Star State.
The following is the tribute to Old Boots courtesy of The Journal Editor Horace Gore.
Ralph Winingham came to Texas at the tender age of 17, joining the U.S. Air Force two weeks after graduating from Louisville High School in Nebraska and jumping at his first opportunity to escape the cold winters of the Midwest.
“My first thoughts of getting to Texas as fast as I could popped into my young skull at the age of 14 when I was busting through snow drifts and battling 26-below-zero temperatures hunting pheasants. I remember thinking ‘I’ve got to get to someplace that stays warm in the winter.”’
That warm weather wish was granted as Ralph attended six weeks of basic training under the San Antonio summer sun before being assigned to Laredo AFB. He served at Laredo for two years and was one of the youngest military newspaper editors in the Air Force.
He earned the Air Force Commendation Medal for his Laredo duty and the Air Force Commendation Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster, for his service as Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Air Training Command Public Information office at Randolph AFB in San Antonio.
Ralph got his college degree at North Texas State University in Denton, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in December 1977. He was editor of the North Texas Daily newspaper during his last semester.
He became a newspaper writer and photographer at the San Antonio Express-News in January 1978. During his 25-year career at the paper he worked with Outdoor Editor Dan Klepper to hone his outdoor writing skills.
“I knew the moment I walked into the executive editor’s office looking for a job that my goal was to be an outdoor writer. It took me 20 years to get there, but I did it,’’ he said.
During his last five years at the Express-News, Ralph not only wrote a weekly column in addition to daily outdoor news coverage; he created the long-running “Campfire Chef” feature of easy fish and game recipes, which was a huge success.
After retiring, Ralph spent the next 20 years as a freelance outdoor writer and photographer. He earned numerous first place awards from the Texas Outdoor Writers Association for his work.
He also served as president, board chairman and Newsletter editor of TOWA and was named as the 2018 recipient of the L.A. Wilke Award, which is the highest honor that the organization can award to a Texas outdoor writer.
In the wing-shooting arena, Ralph was one of the first U.S. journalists to cover the fledgling competition called sporting clays when the event was first introduced here from its native England in the 1980s.
Many of his award-winning articles and photos have been published in The Journal of Texas Trophy Hunters, where he was the Shotgun and Wingshooting columnist and creator of the “Beyond the Hunt” column.
Ralph began his competitive shooting career as a member of the Tiro Al Pichon Association in the late 1970s, winning the 1984 TAPA Live Flyer World Championship held in San Antonio by besting 168 of the finest live bird shooters in the world during the two-day competition. He is also certified as a National Sporting Clays Association Level II instructor, in addition to his current ranking as a Master Class shooter.
Ralph’s latest work in publishing is “Bustin’ Clays & Cookin’ Game with Old Boots & Bacon Grease II” that masterfully melds together the worlds of wingshooting and outdoor cooking. The unique offering also features masterful illustrations by Texas State Artist Sam Caldwell.
“Bustin’ Clays” is the third installment of Winingham’s scribes, preceded by “The Campfire Chef: Old Boots and Bacon Grease,” and “Revenge of Old Boots and Bacon Grease,” which was the 2006 Texas Outdoor Writers Association Book of the Year.
What else can I say—Ralph Winingham is what a lot of other people would like to be. I’ve known Ralph for many years; have spent a lot of shotgun shells trying to beat him; reading his “How to” and “I’ve been there,” as have a lot of hunters and shooters here in Texas.
Ralph is a long- time friend of Texas Trophy Hunters, and we are all proud to recognize him as a Pioneer of our Hunting Heritage. – Horace Gore