In 2007, a magazine with a bold name and a captivating cover image of Pat Conroy standing in a garden fountain arrived in a smattering of mailboxes around the South. The brainchild of Pierre Manigault, John Wilson, and Rebecca Wesson Darwin, Garden & Gun quickly gained a loyal following thanks to its lush photography, literary bent, sophisticated design, and unique mix of coverage—from style to sporting pursuits. It wasn’t the first magazine to put these qualities into play, but it was the first to bring them all to bear on the South.
For a native Savannahian sitting in a New York City office building at the time, the magazine offered a ticket back to the Lowcountry. My friend and mentor Sid Evans had just left his job in the Big Apple to take the helm of G&G, and thankfully he offered me a spot on staff in 2008. I was engaged to the most dynamic and captivating woman I had ever met—and she was always up for an adventure. So off we went to Charleston, our Jeep piled high with things we didn’t trust the moving truck with, including my favorite fishing rods and the palm-sized megalodon tooth I found when I was thirteen.
The South we encountered was primed to become red-hot. You could still find Pappy Van Winkle on the shelf of the occasional liquor store, though not for long. Sean Brock’s seminal restaurant Husk was still a couple of years from opening, but his magic was already brewing in the cauldrons at nearby McCrady’s. As was now famed pitmaster Rodney Scott’s at his family’s barbecue joint in tiny Hemingway, South Carolina. The Avett Brothers were about to blow up on the national stage, bringing the banjo front and center. Charleston (which was and remains G&G’s headquarters) would soon sit atop every foodie’s vacation wish list, the Nashville music scene was rapidly expanding far beyond its country roots, and New Orleans, though it had taken a blow from Katrina, was still New Orleans.
Jenny and I settled into an idyllic 1785 carriage house with a jewel-box garden and soon brought a Boykin spaniel into our lives, the first creature we would love and raise together. In 2011 Sid moved on, and I was handed the reins of a magazine that I’ve always said highlighted everything I love about the South—its food, music, culture, art, and sporting lifestyle. Fortunately, I was surrounded by the very capable hands of Marshall McKinney (design), Maggie Brett Kennedy (photo), David Mezz (editorial), and Haskell Harris (style). Those four still impart their talents and wisdom to the pages.
With the new title came the responsibility of editing Julia Reed, a task one approached with equal parts excitement and trepidation. We cemented our friendship over countless brainstorming sessions, fueled by old-fashioneds more often than not. We lost that force of nature in 2020. And other outstanding contributors over the years, including Pat Conroy, Randall Kenan, Winston Groom, and most recently P. J. O’Rourke.
The brand has continued to grow beyond our print roots, including the Garden & Gun Club, what I consider one of the coolest places to grab a drink and a bite in Atlanta. We’ve put out five books, plus a trivia game and a guest book, and recently launched Birdwatching, our first art exhibition.
But good editors can’t spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Our job is to look forward. As we head into the next fifteen years, many key voices remain—John T. Edge, Allison Glock, Roy Blount Jr.—but powerful new voices have also strengthened the pages, including Latria Graham, David Joy, and Vivian Howard. The South continues to evolve, too. For evidence, turn to “Southern Futures” on page 23 of the April/May issue. The feature, shepherded by executive editor Amanda Heckert and associate editor Caroline Sanders, profiles fifteen people, places, and things pushing the region forward.
I’m often asked what the magic of G&G is. Well, that’s easy. The real magic is our readers. I’m honored every time you tell me you read the issue cover to cover (and tickled by the couples who often tell me they get two subscriptions so they don’t have to share!). You’ve been as loyal as they come and continue to keep us on top of our editing game. It’s an honor to work on every issue with you in mind.
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