Richard Childress is the second first vice president of the National Rifle Association of America and co-chair of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum. First elected to the NRA Board of Directors in 2009, Richard is chairman of the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Committee and a member of the Finance and Meeting Site Selection Committees.
Richard currently serves as chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing (RCR), a world-class stock car racing team based in Welcome, N.C., that competes on the NASCAR circuit. RCR was founded in 1969, and Richard was a driver for eight 12 seasons before turning the keys over to the late Dale Earnhardt. Together, he and Earnhardt won six NASCAR Sprint Winston Cup Series championships. But their partnership was not confined to racing: Richard found in Earnhardt a kindred spirit and a reliable hunting buddy. The two men started out with deer hunting but soon began traveling to hunt elk and beaer. and sheep.
Having lost his father at an early age, Richard was mentored in outdoors activities by his stepdad and his stepdad’s father. They introduced him to the fundamentals of hunting by teaching him how to shoot squirrels and rabbits. As a young man he developed a love of deer hunting and a connection with nature that lasted throughout his life. Now an internationally accomplished sportsman, Richard has shot taken each of the most dangerous game species of Africa and hunted polar bears in the Arctic.
In addition to his sporting pursuits, Richard is active as a conservationist, philanthropist and businessman. He served two terms son the board of the Congressional Sportsman Foundation, and currently serves as a board member for Growth Energy., He’s an active member of the and theBoone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Richard and founded the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma in 2008 with his wife, Judy, with the goal of reducing death, injury and disability among children under 18. He is also the founder and proprietor of Childress Vineyards, an award-winning vineyard and winery in Lexington, N.C.
Richard resides in Lexington, N.C., with his wife, Judy; his daughter, Tina; and two grandchildren, Austin and Ty, who are currently drivers for RCR.
Melanie Pepper is co-chair of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum and a member of the NRA Board of Directors. Melanie was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, but never fired a firearm until 1990 when her future husband, John, took her on a southeast Texas whitetail hunt. That simple hunt, with Melanie taking a spike buck, set the “hunting hook,” and before long she was hunting big whitetail in south Texas. Hunting and love for the outdoors had quickly become her passions.
A chance weekend visit to the Houston Safari Club’s Annual Convention in 1996 found Melanie buying an African safari. That trip became the occasion not only for her first African hunting trophies but for her marriage to John as well. This excursion was followed by 10 more African safaris, with hunting trips to the other five hunting continents in between. Melanie Pepper served as Houston Safari Club President from 2013-2014, and as a member of the Board of Directors from 2009-2015. As president, she facilitated the funding of many scholarships, grants and endowments to support conservation and hunters’ rights, and to support young people in learning to hunt and pursue degrees in range management and wildlife biology.
Melanie is also a Life member of Safari Club International and the SCI Sables. She was awarded the 2013 Safari Club International Diana Hunting Award and currently serves on the Diana Committee. Melanie was Presenter of the 2015 Diana Award at the SCI annual convention, being joined on stage by WLF Co-Chairs Susan LaPierre and Suzie Brewster. Melanie is a charter member of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Executive Committee, where she has served since its inception through 2016. She serves on the Host Committee for the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum from 2011 to present day, and was Co-Chair for the Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon in 2013 at the NRA Annual Convention. The WLF comprises many of the nation’s most influential women who are united by a passion for protecting our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and protect our country’s hunting and shooting traditions.
Over the last seven years as a political activist, Melanie has been a leader of the NRA Texas delegation, with notable involvement in the successful passage of the Texas constitutional amendment for hunting. She has also co-hosted the Texas Reception multiple times during those same years. The reception is held during the NRA Annual Meetings and, as of 2017, the Texas Reception has raised nearly $10 million.
Josh Powell serves as chief of staff and executive director of General Operations for the National Rifle Association of America. After serving on the NRA Board of Directors for approximately three years, Wayne LaPierre tapped him to serve as the NRA’s chief of staff in May 2016, and then appointed him as the head of General Operations in January 2017.
Josh began his professional career on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade as a teenager attending Northwestern University. He started work as a floor clerk and rapidly rose to be a floor trader when he was 21. Seeking new challenges after 15 years of establishing his own trading firm and working in the derivatives trading space, and contending with a growing apprehension about the safety of his young family in downtown Chicago, Josh moved to his home state of Michigan where he embarked on a consulting career for private equity firms and launched a number of startups.
Witnessing Chicago’s steady downward spiral and rising violent crime rate also sparked Josh’s foray into grassroots politics. A steadfast supporter of concealed carry, he grew increasingly frustrated at the glacial pace of bureaucracy and the reluctance of many to reach out to potential non-traditional allies and pass Right-to-Carry legislation in Illinois. So, while others wrote off inner-city legislators, Josh sensed a hidden opportunity with some. Joined by his wife and a friend, the trio established a PAC and personally visited churches all over Chicago’s South Side and preached the merits of concealed carry. To the surprise of many political veterans, they were able to sway a few votes toward successful final passage of Illinois Carry laws.
Josh’s interest in the shooting sports and hunting was piqued when he observed duck hunting from a distance as a 12 year old. He talked his mother into buying him a Remington 870 shotgun and she helped him practice shooting clay targets with it, and the Powell family soon taught themselves to hunt ducks from their boat. While building his skills and indulging his passion as a teen marksman, Powell also developed into an accomplished skier. He moved to Vermont to attend the Killington Mountain School, a preparatory school noted for producing a number of Olympic medalists and national ski champions. After a brief stint as a professional skier, Powell turned his focus back to the shooting sports. Today, he competes in shooting matches worldwide. He is an avid duck hunter and proud member of the International Order of St. Hubertus.
Josh is grateful for the opportunity to serve NRA members and to help in the fight for a freedom that has so deeply enriched his life. Like his mentor and boss, he believes that we can only win this fight if every gun owner and hunter in our country bands together and we all fight as one.
How long have humans been hunting?
According to a 2012 discovery by the European Society for the study of Human Evolution, humans have hunted for 2 million years. To learn more, read “A Right to be Human.”
How has hunting shaped humanity?
Hunting is literally responsible for humanity as we know it. Hunting allowed humans the nutrition that led to brain development and, eventually, species development. The act and celebration of hunting led to the development of language, art, law and even religion. To learn more, read “We Are Hunters.”
What are the primary anti-hunting groups in the U.S.?
The two most visible and well-funded anti-hunting organizations are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Countless smaller groups, some of them funded by these organizations, exist both in the U.S. and around the globe. To learn more, read “The Animal Rights Dream.”
Do these organizations really want to ban hunting?
Yes. Wayne Pacelle, CEO of HSUS has been quoted as saying “We’re out to minimize suffering wherever it can be done, and wherever our limited resources can be utilized most effectively—abusive forms of hunting now, all hunting eventually.” To learn more, read “The Animal Rights Dream.”
Does HSUS support animal shelters?
Despite their name, the Humane Society of the United States does not run a single animal shelter anywhere in the World. According to published documents, less than 1% of their expenditures goes to animal shelters.
Why should I support hunting?
Hunting is a fundamental human behavior that is legal, sustainable, ethical and benefits both habitats and species.
Won’t hunting lead to extinction?
No animal species has ever been sport hunted to extinction. The greatest threats to endangered animals are habitat loss and illegal poaching. Hunting dollars can help preserve critical habitats and legal hunters are a poacher’s worst enemies. Hunting usually results in the expansion of the population of a given species.
Why do we need to hunt animals?
Human population growth and urban and suburban sprawl have destroyed habitats, migration routes and predator populations. Since most game animals enjoy a limited habitat and have few, if any, natural predators, they must be hunted in order to maintain a healthy population.
I support hunting for meat, but how can you support “trophy hunting?”
“Trophy Hunting” is a term that is often used to describe the pursuit of a specific game animal based on its superior body, horn or antler size. Such animals are generally mature males who are often beyond prime breeding age. Not only is the targeting of such older males sustainable, it can be extremely challenging. Hunting an animal for its antlers and its meat are not mutually exclusive: As a matter of fact, it is unlawful in the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions to abandon or waste edible game meat. Even trophy animals end up on the plate.
Is hunting safe?
Statistically, hunting is extremely safe. According to NSSF data, hunting with a gun is the third-safest sport when compared to 28 other popular sports, and has a lower injury rate than tackle football.
How much do hunters contribute financially to conservation?
Through excise taxes on hunting-related equipment, hunters have contributed over $7.2 billion to state conservation efforts. Given current levels of firearm and ammunition sales, hunters now contribute over $371 million annually. In addition, hunters pay $796 million annually in hunting licenses and fees and contribute over $440 million to conservation charities.
How many U.S. jobs are created by hunting?
680,000 jobs are directly related to hunting in the United States.