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Former Ruger Firearms CEO leaves a legacy in Newport

Union Leader Correspondent

September 22. 2018 6:14PM


NEWPORT - He might have been a multimillionaire, former CEO of one of the largest employers in the state, with a mansion on the north end of town filled with priceless art and a classic car collection, but to a lot of folks in town he was Bill.

"He was just another person around town," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Kessler. "I'd see him coming out of the post office or at Chamber events."

William Ruger Jr., died last week at age 79. The son of William Ruger Sr., founder of Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., William Ruger Jr. retired from the firearms business in 2006 after taking over from his father in 2000. The younger Ruger is remembered as a caring part of the Newport community.

"He was always a perfect gentleman," said Ella Casey, executive director of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Ruger family has been essential to Newport, between the firearms plant that employs about 1,200 people, to patronage of the arts and culture in town. Casey said anytime donations were needed, the Ruger family was eager to give.

"They were always first in line to give money," she said.

A wing at Newport's Richards Free Library is named for Ruger Sr., and Ruger Jr., was an ardent supporter of the Newport Opera House, Casey said. The family strongly believed in supporting the town, she said.

"They wanted to put money back into the town," she said.

William Ruger Jr. was born in Greensboro, N.C., in 1939, and graduated from Harvard in 1961. He worked his way up in his father's company, from manufacturing and engineering positions when he started in the 1960s, to become CEO in 2000. The company's fortunes blossomed starting in the 1980s through to 2016, as Ruger became an increasingly popular brand.

"Bill's 42 years of loyal service to the company has had a lasting impact that is still felt today," said Chris Killoy, current president and CEO of Ruger.

The company started making pistols designed by Ruger Sr., that were inspired by the German Lugers used in World War II.

Today, the company manufactures pistols, rifles and shotguns. Like most gun manufacturers, Ruger saw sales spike in 2016 leading up to the presidential election, only to drop in 2017 and 2018.

Kessler said Ruger Jr. retained a deep knowledge and understanding of manufacturing.

Casey said the Ruger family has been a vital part of Newport for decades, and she hopes the company and family will be part of the community for years to come.

Shift change at the Ruger Firearms plant in Newport. The company is one of the largest employers in the state with about 1,200 employees. (DAMIEN FISHER/Union Leader Correspondent)

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