Willie Robertson stars in A&E®’s hit show Duck Dynasty® and is the CEO of Duck Commander, a family operated business that creates products for duck hunters including duck calls, clothes, and videos. Willie, along with his wife and business partner Korie Robertson, also owns and operates Buck Commander where they create products for deer hunters. Willie took the family duck call making company from a living room operation to a multi-million dollar business. Korie helped her husband grow the company into an ever-expanding enterprise and serves as the Duck Commander office manager. Willie and Korie live together with their four children, John Luke, Sadie, Will, and Bella, in West Monroe, Louisiana.
Korie Robertson is a art education major living in West Monroe, Louisiana. She and her husband star on A&E®’s hit show Duck Dynasty® and own and operate Duck Commander, a family operated business that creates products for duck hunters including duck calls, clothes, and videos. They also own and operate Buck Commander that creates product for deer hunters. Korie is also involved in her local church teaching Bible classes to children and working in the church's summer camp program. She has four children plus one daughter who came as an exchange student from Taiwan, but never returned home.
Mark Schlabach is the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling books, Happy, Happy, Happy, Si-cology 1, and The Duck Commander Family. He is one of the most respected and popular college football columnists in the country. He and his wife live in Madison, Georgia, with their three children.
CONSIDER IT PURE JOY, MY BROTHERS, WHENEVER YOU FACE TRIALS OF MANY KINDS, BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH DEVELOPS PERSEVERANCE.
I know this might be hard to believe, but Phil was actually fishing when I was born. I was born on April 22, 1972, which was two days before Phil’s birthday. I guess he was out celebrating a couple of days early because when I came into the world at Tri-Ward General Hospital in Bernice, Louisiana, Phil was sitting in a boat fishing for catfish at Bayou D’Arbonne Lake. I was the third of Phil and Kay’s four sons, and Phil was only at the hospital to witness the birth of my youngest brother, Jeptha. Phil claims watching Jep’s birth traumatized him so much that he wasn’t sure he could ever have sex again. Of course, he says, it only took him about six weeks to get over it. I guess I’m just glad Phil was there nine months before I was born or I wouldn’t be here today.
Phil likes to joke that he named me after one of his former students, who was a good football player but had failed the eighth grade three times. The truth is that I was named after Willie Ezell, my maternal grandfather, who passed away from a heart attack when Kay was only fourteen. I was born with very long, curly hair, and Kay joked that I looked a lot like the boxing promoter Don King. When Kay was getting ready to leave the hospital, they put me out in the hall with the other newborn babies. Sounds like a good chance for babies to get switched at birth to me, but apparently that’s how they did it back then. Anyway, there was no chance of mistaking me for one of the other babies. People who walked by would stop, look at me, and then ask, “Who is that kid with all the hair?” They’re still asking that same question about me today.
Phil was born and raised in Caddo Parish in Northwest Louisiana, near where the state converges with Arkansas and Texas. His father, James Robertson, was the son of Judge Euan Robertson, the longtime justice of the peace in Vivian, Louisiana. James Robertson married Merritt Hale; we always called them Pa and Granny.
Phil Alexander Robertson was born on the family’s farm outside Vivian on April 24, 1946. Phil had four brothers and two sisters, and they spent much of their childhood living in an old log house located on land owned by Pa’s aunt Myrtle Gauss. The cabin was pretty rustic and didn’t even have indoor plumbing. But the log house came with more than four hundred acres, which is where Phil and his brothers learned to hunt and fish. The woods surrounding the farm were filled with squirrels, quail, and doves, and the Robertson boys could hunt for duck and fish for white perch and bream at nearby Black Bayou and Caddo Lake.
Pa started working in the oil industry when he was young, after black gold was discovered in East Texas and at the Caddo Pine Island Oil Field in Caddo Parish in the early twentieth century.
When Phil was in high school, his family was forced to move because Aunt Myrtle sold her farm. They relocated to Dixie, Louisiana, which is about fifteen miles north of Shreveport. Granny had suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with manic depression. Pa hoped the move would stabilize Granny’s condition. She was twice confined to the Louisiana mental institute at Pineville, where she received electric shock treatment. Her condition didn’t improve until years later, when doctors discovered that lithium could control her mental imbalance.
A short time after Phil’s family moved to Dixie, Pa fell eighteen feet from the floor of a drilling rig and landed on his head. He broke two vertebrae in his back and ruptured his stomach. The accident nearly killed him. Doctors fused the vertebrae in his back with bone from his hip and repaired his stomach. But Pa was forced to wear a heavy plaster of Paris cast from neck to hip for nearly two years and obviously couldn’t work. Making matters worse, Granny was confined to the mental hospital at the same time, so Pa was left to care for five of his children while he was immobilized.
Phil’s older brothers, Jimmy Frank and Harold, were enrolled in classes at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Both of them volunteered to come home and work to help the family make ends meet. But Pa insisted they stay in school and finish their education. The family somehow survived on Pa’s disability checks of thirty-five dollars a week. Phil’s older sister, Judy, did most of the cooking and cared for her younger siblings, Silas and Jan. Phil’s other older brother Tommy and Phil gathered pecans and sold them to local markets. The family subsisted on rice and beans, cornbread, and whatever fish and game the boys could catch. Rice and beans was a staple dish at the Robertson dinner table. A hundred-pound bag of rice and several cans of beans would last for weeks. There are dozens of ways to prepare rice and beans, and the recipes could be altered by adding a simple gravy or squirrel, quail, or fish, so it was a perfect meal for the struggling Robertson family.
ABOUT THE ONLY THING PHIL CARED ABOUT OTHER THAN HUNTING AND FISHING WAS PLAYING FOOTBALL.
About the only thing Phil cared about other than hunting and fishing was playing football. The Robertson boys learned to play football in the backyard of their log home. They constructed a goalpost with oak-tree uprights and a gum-tree crossbar. Four of the Robertson boys played football at Vivian High School and later North Caddo High School (after the parish consolidated several schools). Jimmy Frank played center and guard but always wanted to be a quarterback. He taught his younger brothers how to play the position. Tommy was a track star and was the first Robertson to play quarterback, but moved to halfback when Phil made the varsity team at North Caddo High. Harold broke his elbow while playing on the freshman team and never played football again. Silas was a hard-hitting defensive back, but Phil ended up being the best athlete in the family. He was a first-team, all-state quarterback and all-district outfielder in baseball.
Phil and Kay started dating when she was in the ninth grade and he was in the tenth. She assisted the Robertson family at times by giving them food from the general store her family owned in Ida, Louisiana. Phil and Kay broke up during the Christmas holidays the year they started dating because Phil didn’t want a girlfriend interfering with hunting season. But then Kay’s father passed away the next May, and Phil attended his funeral. They started dating again soon there after.
After finishing high school, Phil received a football scholarship from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, where his brother Tommy was already playing for the Bulldogs. Kay moved there with Phil and completed her senior year at Ruston High School. She was pregnant at the age of sixteen with my oldest brother, Alan. Phil and Kay moved into the same apartment complex where Tommy and his wife, the former Nancy Dennig, lived, which made the transition to college a lot easier. Phil was redshirted his freshman year at Louisiana Tech but then won the starting quarterback job the next season. He was ahead of Terry Bradshaw on the depth chart.
In his book It’s Only a Game, Bradshaw remembered Phil: “He’d come out to practice directly from the woods, squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets, duck feathers on his clothes. Clearly he was a fine shot, so no one complained too much.”
During one practice before his senior season, Phil saw a flock of geese fly over the practice field. Phil looked up at the geese and thought, “Man, what am I doing here?” He quit the football team a few days later, handing the starting job to Bradshaw. Bradshaw later led the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl championships and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. Phil stayed at Louisiana Tech and earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1969 and a master’s in 1974. He spent the rest of his fall days in the bayou, hunting ducks and squirrels, instead of throwing touchdowns.
TO BE HONEST, I CAME ALONG AT A DIFFICULT TIME IN PHIL’S LIFE.
To be honest, I came along at a difficult time in Phil’s life. After he earned his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana Tech, he was hired to teach English and physical education at a school in Junction City, Arkansas. Phil spent most of his time fishing, hunting, and drinking with the guy who hired him. They were doing some pretty wild and crazy things, and Phil was reprimanded a few times by the school board for his boorish behavior. He quit his teaching job before they could fire him and signed an eighteen-month lease to run a honky-tonk at the bottom of the Ouachita River near El Dorado, Arkansas. Phil was drinking a lot and spending very little time with us. Kay was so worried about Phil that she began working as a barmaid at the honky-tonk to keep an eye on him.
When Phil and Kay were at the bar, they’d leave Alan, Jase, and me with Aunt Rose, who was my favorite babysitter. She wasn’t actually our aunt, but in the South, when you’re a kid you’ve got to put something in front of the name of any adult you talk to. It’s a sign of respect, and having good manne...
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I love watching Duck Dynasty, they are some of the funniest, most down to earth people I've ever seen. I thought this was a great book, I liked learning about the family and it was well written. The pictures were awesome too! Now Uncle Si and Jase need to write one! Good job Willie and Kay, you and your family are inspiring, thanks for sharing your story.
This books is mostly about Willie, however Korie does add to the story throughout. While there were stories I would have loved more detail, this was an excellent book. I am an avid fan of the Duck Dynasty TV show on A&E.
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This was book was great fun to read! A impressive insight to the Robertson family that my own family have grown to love watching on tv. This book shows over and over that they give all the credit of their success to God.
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