About the Honoree

For the past 50 years, Johnny Morris and the company he founded have been committed to conservation and providing value to customers. Bass Pro Shops and the White River Marine Group have transformed how sportsmen relate to the outdoor product and boating markets. Through time and across brands, Morris and his business network have empowered efforts to conserve nature, promote sportsmen’s rights, and introduce new audiences to the great outdoors.

The success of Morris’s conservation efforts has been recognized in the form of awards and honors from organizations far and wide. Morris was presented with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award by President George H. W. Bush during a special ceremony at the White House in 1990. He has also been awarded highest honors from such distinguished organizations as the Audubon Society, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, and others. Morris has been honored with appointments by three sitting U.S. presidents.

Johnny Morris’s conservation legacy, however, exists not in these honors and recognition. This legacy is best observed in the million-plus annual visitors to the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium—each of which who leave with a reaffirmed love for nature and conservation. His legacy is most evident in cascading levels of benefit his efforts have created for current and future generations of sportsmen and -women.

Highlights of the Night

The American Museum of Fly Fishing hosted its Heritage Award event honoring Johnny Morris on April 7, 2022, at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium (WOW) in Springfield, Missouri. The event also celebrated the opening of AMFF’s new gallery at WOW.

As guests gathered for a cocktail reception in the space outside the gallery, they were treated to a highlight reel of fly-fishing films included in the exhibition. They also had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a sloth, a snake, and an alligator who made special appearances. AMFF President Fred Polhemus welcomed nearly 100 guests to both recognize Johnny Morris’s accomplishments and share the expertly curated gallery, which tells fly fishing’s greatest stories, including its journey to becoming one of the world’s most fascinating and beloved sports.

Dinner was served in the Great Barrier Reef room. Guests enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by the White River Conference Center set against the backdrop of a dazzling aquarium featuring an impressive array of underwater life. Auctioneer Chris Ward took the stage for a high-spirited live auction, which included a paddle raise to support our new Vermont exhibit Tied Together: The Extraordinary Lives of Joan and Lee Wulff. Captain Robert L. W. McGraw made a pre-event pledge of $10,000, which was matched by Morris, and other generous guests brought the paddle raise total to $39,500.

Former AMFF trustee and event chair Annie Perkins introduced the honoree. It was the combined vision of Perkins’s late husband, Leigh H. Perkins, and Morris that brought the AMFF gallery to WOW.

Perkins and Polhemus then presented Morris with the Heritage Award. Morris shared captivating, heartwarming stories about his family and his love of the sport of fly fishing. The evening concluded with Senior Conservation Director Bob Ziehmer voicing his appreciation for his friendship with Morris and his excitement around the conservation opportunities that will emerge from the partnership with AMFF.

The museum would like to thank our honoree, Johnny Morris, and his extraordinary teams at both WOW and Bass Pro Shops for making us feel so welcome in Springfield, as well as our wonderful event committee: Mark Comora, Gary Grant, Karen Kaplan, Walter Matia, Annie Perkins, Fred Polhemus, Nancy Zakon, and Bob Ziehmer. We are also so grateful to all of our live and silent auction donors: Above All Vermont, Gordon Allen, Bass Pro Shops, Scott Biron, Nicholas Brawer, Henry Caldwell, Cheeky, Mark Comora, Deerfield Rods, Emerald Water Anglers, Fishpond, James Heckman, Hemingway Inshore, Hildene, Hollenbeck Club, Kimpton Taconic, Woods King IV, Carmine Lisella, Walter Matia, Mulligans, Al Quattrocchi, Annie Perkins, Harry Peterson, Fred Polhemus, Steve Ramirez, Scientific Anglers, Rich Strolis, Taf Schaefer Design, Tail Magazine, Three Forks Ranch, Tin Boat Productions, Trout Unlimited, the Wild Wander, James Utaski, George Van Hook, April Vokey, and Nancy and Alan Zakon.

The Heritage Award fly created by Val Kropiwnicki in honor of Johnny Morris.


Our favorite shots from the night. Photos by Shelby Walters/Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife.

Event Committee

  • Annie Perkins (Event Chair)
  • Mark Comora
  • Gary Grant
  • Karen Kaplan
  • Walter Matia
  • Fred Polhemus
  • Nancy Zakon
  • Bob Ziehmer