Alice Bull, 88, Set Her Sights On Marksmanship

Alice H. Bull, a history buff and gun collector whose shooting skill earned her national trophies and titles, was a woman of firsts.

Plain-spoken and wiry, she was the first woman elected to the National Rifle Association's board of directors (1949).

She was the first woman to earn the Army's Distinguished Rifleman Badge (1961). And she was the first woman to serve on the federal government's National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (1972).

"Mother was very proud of those accomplishments" and dedicated to firearms education, said her son, Leland Bull Jr. of Seattle. "She was a fairly unusual person, a tough athlete, with lots of broken bones and screws in her body not related to shooting sports."

"She was a really tough old girl," said her brother, Horace Horstman of Port Angeles. "She just kept going . . . in fact, she went to a hockey game the night before she died."

Mrs. Bull died last Thursday (Nov. 26) of heart failure. She was 88.

Born in Cincinnati but reared in Port Angeles, she learned from her amateur-geologist father how to shoot, hike and ski.

At age 7, she riddled a neighbor's washtub with BBs and got a paddling. But she also got her father to notice her interest in guns: He gave her a .22-caliber rifle.

At age 10, she contracted polio, which permanently affected her vocal cords. But after recuperating, she played on a high-school baseball team.

While earning a degree in business administration at the University of Washington, she was captain of the women's rifle team. The team shot at targets, then exchanged them by mail with other college teams to determine winners.

Mrs. Bull won her first trophy shooting a .38-caliber revolver at a state pistol shoot-off the summer after college. From there, she won a score of championships, including the national women's high-power-rifle title.

She competed in the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, in 1935, 1936 and 1937.

"She often said her greatest pre-war distinction was to place 33rd out of 1,400 of the nation's best competitors in the President's Hundred-Rifle Match in which the top 100 finishers were honored with a parade through the camp," her son said. "She was the only woman in that parade until the mid-1960s."

After World War II, she continued competing, and taught firearms safety and shooting courses. During the Korean War, she taught hundreds of draft-age youths to shoot.

"I like mechanical things," she told a reporter. "A finely made gun is like a well-made micrometer . . . (a gun) is a very fine piece of machinery and beautiful to look at. I don't love it because it goes boom."

Also surviving are her sister, Elizabeth Bennett of Signal Mountain, Tenn., and four grandchildren. Her husband of 50 years, Leland Bull Sr., died in 1983.

A memorial gathering is at 2 p.m. Dec. 26 at German United Church of Christ, 1107 E. Howell St., Seattle.

Remembrances may go to the Alice H. Bull Endowment for Collegiate Shooting Programs, NRA Foundation, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com