McElroy, founder of Safari Club, dies at 88.
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucsonan C.J. McElroy, founder of Safari Club International and the International Wildlife Museum, died Friday at age 88.
McElroy's health declined in December after he had a pacemaker inserted and then suffered a stroke, said Darlene Rogers, his longtime companion.
McElroy, know as Mac to his friends, was "a go-getter who made his dreams come to life," Rogers said.
He began hunting as a child in Denton, Texas, to get food for his family and to obtain skins to sell.
After he read a book about Africa, it became his childhood dream to hunt there.
He made his first trip in the late 1950s or early '60s and ended up traveling to Africa 70 to 80 times, including on a photo safari to South Africa and Namibia that ended last September, Rogers said.
"His love was Africa - the people, culture and the animals," she said.
He also went on 41 safaris in Asia, Europe and the South Pacific and 62 in North and South America.
At the time he founded Safari Club International in 1972, there were individual hunting clubs in various places, but it was his dream to unite them in one organization, Rogers said.
He retired as head of the club in October 1988. Today the organization says it advocates for 45 million hunters. Its goals are to protect their rights and to improve wildlife conservation.
It was also McElroy's dream to start the International Wildlife Museum so that people who could not travel around the world could see trophy animals, Rogers said.
The museum, at 4800 W. Gates Pass Road, opened in 1988 and includes big game hunted by McElroy. Its design is based on a fort that McElroy admired in the African country of Chad, Rogers said.
McElroy's formal education ended at age 11 or 12 and at age 13 he hopped a train and became a hobo, Rogers said.
He returned home a couple of years later but stayed a short time before moving to Los Angeles.
He worked as a dance hall bouncer, owned a bar, worked as a dishwasher and on the construction of the Hoover Dam, operated a taxidermy shop and owned a floor covering business, she said.
He came to Tucson to retire but didn't slow down.
He wrote five books - his sixth, about big game hunting and travel - is at the publisher's now, Rogers said.
He started the "encyclopedia" of game hunting, the "SCI Record Book of Trophy Animals," and has 425 listings in it, she said.
He also started the Safari Club's magazine and newspaper.
Memorial services are pending.