updated 2/26/2004 3:25:09 PM ET 2004-02-26T20:25:09

The newly elected chairman of Smith & Wesson's parent company has resigned in the wake of reports about his criminal past.

"I felt it was the best thing for the company, given the circumstances," James Joseph Minder, 74, of Scottsdale, Ariz., told The Republican newspaper in Springfield.

Minder said he submitted his resignation voluntarily at a meeting of directors of the Smith and Wesson Holding Corp. earlier this week, the newspaper reported Thursday.

Company officials did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment. However, the newspaper said the gun maker was expected to name a replacement for Minder on Friday.

Minder's resignation came three weeks after The Arizona Republic reported that he spent more than 10 years in Michigan prisons in the 1950s and 1960s for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape.

Minder said he didn't disclose his criminal past to the other directors of the 150-year-old gun company prior to his election as chairman in mid-January.

"Nobody asked," he said, adding he had turned his life around in the 30 years since his release from prison.

Following his release from prison, Minder founded Spectrum Human Services, a nonprofit agency serving delinquent and disabled Michigan youths, and ran it for 20 years before retiring to Arizona in 1997.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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