One bittersweet thing about this holiday season is that you remember the people who won’t be here to celebrate it this year. We’ve already eulogized my friend and fellow gun writer Frank James, who passed a few months ago. This month, we lost Jim Clark, Jr. His dad, Jim Senior, was a distinguished Pacific Theater veteran of WWII, one of the all-time great custom gunsmiths, and the first private citizen to win the overall National Pistol Championship of the United States without the financial support of an armed service or law enforcement agency. When I saw Jim, Jr. earlier this year at the NRA national conference, he seemed in fine shape; truly, none of us knows when we’ll be taken. Beyond his vast knowledge of guns, Jim like his dad was a genuinely good man who always had time to answer the most naïve question from the newest shooter, and became a national champ himself. That tradition lives in the rest of the family: his sister Kay Clark-Miculek, brother-in-law Jerry Miculek, and Jim’s niece Lena Miculek-Afentul – national champions all, and all the salt-of-the-earth good people we’re proud to have as both national champs of our chosen sport, and icons of our way of life.
A few days ago, friend and student Philippa Coates informed me of the passing of our mutual friend, legendary Chicago cop Jack Manfre. Jack and I had taught together for our mutual friend and mentor Ray Chapman at Chapman Academy in Columbia, MO thirty or so years ago, and remained friends ever since. The Evil Princess, a Chicagoan, was fortunate enough to become one of Jack’s students early in her shooting career, and we always tried to touch bases with him when we were in the Windy City. A strong believer in the Second Amendment (like so many street-wise cops!) Jack was always as happy teaching law-abiding private citizens how to defend themselves as he was teaching brother and sister officers.
He was also a mentor to Tom Marx, one of the most knowledgeable people in the firearms industry, who also started out as a Chicago copper. Tom has been gracious enough to share his eulogy for Jack with us, as follows:
Living the glamorous life that I do, I was just about to drive out of an airport parking lot at 0045hrs this morning when my cell phone chirped to tell me that someone had just sent me a text. Something not totally unusual, as the work I do has allowed me to travel to, and make friends in, time zones in parts of the world I never knew existed, let alone ever thought I would get a chance to visit.
It was from a close friend in the Midwest who told me that the man who, for all of the teachers and instructors I have had the good fortune to have met and learned from, was truly the mentor who had started me, not only on the path to better and more effective shooting, but on the road that led to who I am and what I do today, had passed away.
Jack Manfre, long retired from the Chicago Police Department was in his 80’s but still sharp and still teaching. It bothered him just a few years ago when he decided that it was time to stop employing some of the more aggressive turning movements he had always made a part of his shooting programs. But that didn’t stop him from regularly working out on a heavy bag; something he had done since he had boxed in the Navy (during the Korean war period).
Jack was one of those guys who while always confident and sure of himself and of what he could do, never bragged about it and for a long time, never seemed to even understand or appreciate what he had done or could do for others. Yeah, he always taught for money (whether as an Instructor at the CPD Academy or as a private teacher working a side job shooting, like others guy worked security in a bank or drug store) but I can’t tell you how many times, “just for fun”, he would simply gather up a few of us and we would spend some part of the day firing serious drills and critiquing each other, while learning all we could from him. To Jack, it was fun. And a science. And an art.
Jack was an artist in that respect and a cop and a great instructor. He taught at the Chicago police Academy for over a decade but he never stopped learning himself. He originally went to learn from Ray Chapman but he not only became friends with Ray Chapman (not an easy task itself) but ultimately taught alongside Ray Chapman. Separately, when the NRA first realized that they needed to get out of the dark ages of police training and into the late 20th century in regard to how handguns were really used, they too, called on Jack and he taught for them throughout the United States in the beginning days of that very successful reorganization. He also taught for Beretta, who too, sent him throughout the United States to represent them and teach folks what pistols were all about (in the days when people – let alone police people – knew little about them) but they also sent him to other parts of the world because they could see what he could do for others and because they knew how good he made them look.
All that, in the days when there were few schools and no factory shooters or instructors like there are now.
He also taught at Camp Perry, he did work for the FBI up at their huge facility at Great Lakes, and the CPD got creative when they realized what they had lost when he retired and for several decades afterward, they found ways to bring him back and teach all kinds of things that were well outside the spectrum of their regular programs to guys in specialty units and tons of other officers who often came in on their own time (something almost unheard of in that Department) to become better with what is perhaps, their most serious “tool of the trade”.
And when it comes to tools, the first Ed Brown guns I ever shot (from back when Ed was still working out of his house) were relatively flawless 1911’s that he built for Jack. “Built” for Jack as in “paid for” by Jack because Jack never put the arm on anybody for anything. He was a standup guy in that way and all other ways too. He never sought fame from any of this. He just liked to shoot and to help others.
As such, while he taught thousands (probably tens of thousands) of people over the years, and while in my travels, it always pleased and amazed me, how many people had met him and learned from him, I’m sure that most of you (except for Mas, because through Ray, he worked with him too), never heard of this man before.
I’m sure that Mas has mentioned him in print. I know that Brian Felter has. I believe that Mike Boyle has too. And Dave Spaulding credits him with a lot. I believe that John Benner of TDI (a wonderful “old-school” school itself) has talked about him formally as well. But while there are a few mentions of him online [Including a non-shooting one that offers great insight to policing in the 60’s within the CPD’s own official publication that existed for the benefit, amusement and recognition of its members. The Chicago Police Star said this in its January 1969 issue as a monthly report on the activities for the old Area 1 Traffic Unit (here regarding their Annual New Year’s Eve Party): The highlight of the evening was a contest between Jack Manfre and Don Dodge, to see how many parking citations could be filled out in a 5 minute period. Jack won by one citation and was presented with the “Writer’s Cup” which will be an annual presentation from now on.], there is little if anything out there that truly describes what he was like.
He was a great guy, a great copper and a great inspiration to me and the men I worked with who knew and appreciated firearms and shooting like I do.
Someday, when I can write about him more clearly, I’ll tell you about 5am breakfasts at the legendary Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago, when various Deputy and Assistant Deputy Superintendents (who were so far above me, they were like meeting the Pope) would stop by on their way in or out to say hi to Jack and sincerely inquire as to how he was doing because they were all old friends.
And lunches in a now-gone corner restaurant at Racine and Grand where everybody was either a cop, a criminal or a city worker (sometimes more than one at the same time) in a Damon Runyon-like off limits place where everybody accepted everybody else because most of them had grown up together.
And dinners in an unknown-to-the-public (let alone to-the-tourists) neighborhood, where ancient Italians sat peacefully and unafraid on their aluminum folding chairs in front of their carefully tended-to homes that they had owned and kept up forever because the miscreants from the outright horrifying zones that surrounded it, knew little but knew enough to never to screw with them or those, like us, who had come to visit.
And about shooting ranges that “ranged” the gamut from unseen indoor private ones dating back to the 1920’s to outdoor machine gun facilities from WWII where .50cal projectiles were fired well (sometimes too well) out into Lake Michigan.
But right now, I just want to tell you how one day, early-on in my getting to know him, Jack took me aside and told me that maybe I could be pretty good at this shooting stuff, if only I took it seriously. With his encouragement and his instruction, I did take it seriously. For if I had not learned as much from him as I did, I would have never travelled to those unknown parts of the world I mentioned earlier and I would never have been in the car this morning; travelling, teaching and still learning myself, while hopefully (and more importantly) helping others the way he had helped me, when I got that text.
Thanks for the above, Tom.