Charles T. “Chuck” Buck—who most recently led Buck Knives as its chairman—died last week at the age of 78. “My grandfather, Hoyt Buck, and my dad, Al Buck, founded this company on a simple premise, to make a better knife,” he once said. “Our longtime, best-selling knives reflect that tradition.” Chuck is credited with taking the business far beyond its origins in a wooden lean-to, and making Buck into an industry leader that produces more than a million knives a year, with $33 million in sales, according to an Inc. story.
Buck Knives became synonymous with hunting after Chuck’s grandfather, a Kansas blacksmith named Hoyt Buck, developed a new way to temper steel so it would hold an edge longer and started the company in 1902. Buck made knives for American troops during WWII before revolutionizing the cutlery industry with its innovative locking folder system in 1964. Chuck served in the U.S. Navy before entering the family business and was named president of the company in 1979 at age 43. He handed the reins to his son, CJ, who currently serves as president and CEO, in 1999.
But for Chuck, family was the backbone of the company. In 2011, he told Outdoor Life: “Most family businesses don’t last past the second generation, because the rest of the family doesn’t have the vision, or the excitement of starting it. They would rather sell it.” With CJ’s son in line to become the fifth-generation of Buck Knives, it appears that the family-run business will continue.
When he wasn’t promoting Buck Knives, Chuck enjoyed traveling and giving talks around the country. He enjoyed a lifetime of deer, antelope, and elk hunting with his family, and he touched the lives of many within the hunting and outdoors industry. Chuck will be remembered fondly. “Mr. Buck didn’t just make knives,” says Marc Mondavi, vice president of communications for the Boone and Crockett Club, in the Outdoor Wire. “He made memories.”