Arkansas is known as the Natural State, and few have been more dedicated to preserving Arkansas in all of its natural beauty than Joe Morgan. Joe passed away last month at age 76.

 Joe was a life-long Arkansan. He studied at Little Rock University—now the University of Arkansas-Little Rock—and he worked for many years as a car dealer for great American companies, like General Motors and Chevrolet. He also served on the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission.

But Joe will probably be remembered most for his tireless advocacy on behalf of Arkansas’s natural heritage and environment. Governor Hutchinson appointed Joe to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, where he quickly established himself as a champion for Arkansas duck hunters and the wilderness upon which they rely.

Joe hunted and fished in Stuttgart—the duck capital of the world. As a member of the commission, he made it his mission to ensure duck hunting remained a gentleman’s sport and to preserve the hunting grounds he knew and loved so they would be available to future generations of Arkansans.

 He was especially passionate about preserving Bayou Meto Waterfowl Management Area, one of the crown jewels of duck hunting in Arkansas.

He was instrumental in implementing safe-boating regulations to protect hunters and waterfowl populations alike. He imposed time limits on when boats could be out on the water, to preserve the health and sustainability of the duck population. And Joe’s first priority was always to his fellow Arkansans—he pressed for limits on when non-residents could hunt, to ensure that locals were never pushed out of the local hunting spots they grew up with.

Joe’s fellow commissioners will remember him as a dogged defender of hunting and fishing in Arkansas. His wife of 56 years, Judy, and his son, Brett, will remember him as a loving husband and father who was always ready with a joke—and always ready for a good shoot, a round of golf, or even a jaunt in his trusty Cessna 182.

As for me, I’ll remember Joe as a friend.

I met Joe in my early campaigns and we became fast friends. We talked and texted often—he even hosted me with friends in North Carolina to speak about Republican politics.

Joe Morgan may have left us, but he left his heart in Arkansas—in the well-stocked, flooded timber of Bayou Meto, which he helped to preserve.

In a fitting tribute to his legacy, Joe passed away on the opening day of duck hunting in Arkansas.

 Every hunter who enjoys Arkansas’s natural beauty this season—and every season in the future—can thank Joe for the experience. May he rest in peace.