A Tribute to Ken Warner
by Jan Billeb, AKTI Executive Director
Fall 1997, I received a call from Ken Warner asking if I had any more time on my plate. While I’d never personally met Ken, we had communicated for several years after he took over the editor position of Gun Digest from legendary John T. Amber. Our interactions had intersected in the gun world as I was the Executive Director of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild, an organization so dear to John’s heart that he left an endowment to make sure it survived.
Ken was impassioned. He was working with an unnamed group trying to form a new organization and he believed my association management background would be helpful. Shortly after, I was introduced by phone to Les de Asis, owner of Benchmade Knives, and he, Ken and I worked closely on the organizational documents for the American Knife & Tool Institute. West Virginia, where Ken lived, provided a good state to incorporate as a nonprofit.
Ken was a major force in driving AKTI’s formation – and he had a vision that the organization would be about more than knife laws, that it would provide education and unite the knife community including custom makers, individuals, and everyone in the knife business in any way. The name to include “Institute” was Ken’s idea to ensure education was incorporated into the organization. And, our board members are referred to as “regents” instead of “directors” to keep reminding the governing board that they have a mission to inform, educate and promote about knives as tools.
Faxes flew across the country filled with ideas. Unfortunately, faxes fade. Ken’s ideas at times were staggering. After all, he was a visionary. Several two and three day long meetings were held with the initital board of industry leaders and representatives from the Knifemakers Guild hammering out the mission, goals, organization, committee projects, etc. Ken served as the first corporate secretary of the American Knife & Tool Institute.
With AKTI established, Ken’s visionary nature moved on to the many other projects on his plate and in his head – Gun Digest, Knives Annual series, then to produce Knives Digest, own Blackjack Knives and writing articles about the topics he loved.
We stayed in touch with regular faxes or calls from his West Virginia home, Ken always checking in to make sure AKTI was including educating in our initiatives and goals. I missed getting personal updates after Ken quit attending the Blade Show.
The knife community owes Ken Warner for his efforts to make sure that an organization was formed to advocate for them – and the vision to ensure that it was a multi-faceted, true grassroots nonprofit with a diverse governing body.
Thank you, Ken.
More about Ken Warner in Blade Magazine.