It’s been a tough couple of weeks for losing legends. Only a few days after learning we’d lost our own John Merwin, I found out that Tom Jennings, member of the Archery Hall of Fame, passed away last Monday. He was 88.
An acclaimed compound-bow pioneer, Jennings was the technical editor for The Archery Magazine when Missourian W.H. Allen sent him a wheel bow to test in 1966. Allen had just applied for a patent on the product and was shopping a prototype around to several companies, but no one was interested in the odd-looking mix of limbs, strings, and cables. But when Jennings shot this early compound–a bow that was only 20 fps faster than a recurve and offered only 15 percent let-off–he realized he was holding the future. Already a custom bowyer and co-owner of S&J Archery, Jennings immediately abandoned production of recurve bows and threw himself into building and marketing a better compound.
By the early 1970s, Jennings could barely keep up with orders for the bows. He also fought for their acceptance into hunting seasons and for their use in target archery competitions. Before long, tournament shooters were winning with compounds and prominent bowhunters (Chuck Adams was a Jennings guy) were taking trophies. Thanks largely to Jennings, modern archers had adopted the compound and would never look back.
Tom Jennings led a fascinating life. He went to high school with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. He was an avid aviator, a military veteran, an accomplished hunter, and a noted bowyer. He was inducted in the Archery Hall of Fame in 1999. For a closer look at his remarkable life and career, check out this great interview on Bowhunting.net and visit the tribute to him at the Archery Hall of Fame website.