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Letter From The Editor: In Memoriam — James O.E. Norell, 1943-2017

Letter From The Editor: In Memoriam — James O.E. Norell, 1943-2017

Photo credit: Mike Parker

This feature appears in the December ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

If you’ve spent much time reading America’s 1st Freedom magazine over the past nearly 18 years, you are likely familiar with James O.E. Norell. Jim, as he was known to friends and colleagues, has been one of this magazine’s most valued contributors over the past many years, making an indelible mark on freedom that can never be erased and should never be forgotten. 

Unfortunately, Jim passed away Sept. 25. He was 74 years old.

Jim was an integral contributor to 1st Freedom for many, many years. His research ability was incredible, leading to the fine finished product he so often delivered. He worked diligently to get more information than he could ever use before starting the writing process. That, along with his ability to explain critically important issues in an easily understandable way, set him apart from many of his contemporaries.

Jim Norell spent a lifetime in service to our Second Amendment freedom. He fought throughout his lifetime with words that made an immeasurable difference.Jim was also a close and valued friend. He considered my family to be his family and sent gifts to my sons when they became Eagle Scouts. When I would frequently see his number pop up on my caller ID, I’d sometimes debate whether or not to answer the call, given his propensity to turn a 10-minute chat into an hour-long conversation. But I never, ever regretted pushing the “answer” button. And I never had a conversation with Jim that I wasn’t glad I had. 

Jim’s contribution to 1st Freedom aside, his ability to stretch a deadline and to write more words than assigned was legendary. (Don’t worry, he’d laugh if he was still around to read this.) I once assigned Jim a 2,000-word feature story, and nearly a week after the deadline he submitted the feature at a little more than 3,000 words. In return, I jokingly sent him an invoice for $1,000, itemized as a $1/word “cutting fee.” We both got a hearty laugh out of that.

Jim had a much larger contribution to freedom than his role as a 1st Freedom writer, however. He was the first director of communications for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, and was intimately involved in crafting the NRA’s messaging in the early days of the fight to save the Second Amendment. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre put it like this: “Jim Norell spent a lifetime in service to our Second Amendment freedom. He fought throughout his lifetime with words that made an immeasurable difference—words that defended firearms in the hands of good, law-abiding, patriotic Americans. His words helped change the course of American history. He was a good friend and patriot.”

Jim’s infectious smile, dry sense of humor and ability to end a conference call with a distinctly inappropriate remark are all things that I will sorely miss about him. But not nearly as much as I’ll miss his longtime friendship.

RIP, Jim. You made this world a better place.

Mark Chesnut has been the editor of America’s 1st Freedom magazine for 17 years and is an avid hunter, shooter and political observer.