The Board of Directors of the Rodeo Historical Society (RHS) announces the 2006 inductees into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Recipients of the Tad Lucas and Ben Johnson Memorial Awards also will be honored. Rodeo Weekend at the Museum, scheduled for October 20-22, includes an opening reception for two Native American exhibitions.
Induction into the Rodeo Hall of Fame is one of the top honors that can be bestowed on a rodeo cowboy, cowgirl or performer. Inductees annually are chosen by a vote of the RHS membership. Four living and four deceased honorees will be recognized at a special ceremony Sunday, October 22 at the Museum.
Living Inductees for 2006 include: Mel Hyland, Dutchess, Alberta, Canada, who competed in saddle bronc riding and bareback riding and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) every year for 11 consecutive years, ranking in the top 10 from 1967-1984. He won the PRCA Saddle Bronc World Championship in 1972 and 1976.
Hyland was the Canadian Bareback Champion in 1972 and 1975 and the Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion in 1967, 1979 and 1982. He was the first person in rodeo history to win both a World Championship and Canadian Championship in the same year, 1972. In 1981, he was named the Canadian Cowboy of the Year and inducted into both the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Alvin Nelson, Grassy Butte, North Dakota, started rodeoing in 1950 and joined the PRCA in 1953. He first appeared in the PRCA world standings in 1955, where he finished fifth in the all-around, fifth in bareback and eighth in saddle bronc.
In 1956, Nelson finished third in saddle bronc, eighth in bareback and eighth in the all-around standings. From 1955-1966, Nelson appeared in the PRCA end-of-the-year world standings in three events: saddle bronc, bareback and the all-around. He was the 1957 PRCA World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider; 1961, 1962 NFR Saddle Bronc winner; and the high-money winner at the 1961 NFR. He qualified for the NFR five times, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966. Nelson was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1988; South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1989; and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2004.
Vernon "Dude" Smith, Burkburnett, Texas, competed in bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling. In 1945, he competed in his first large rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, and won money at all of the major rodeos from 1949 to 1966.
Smith produced rodeos with Bobby Estes and rodeoed with Col. Jim Eskew in Cuba. He accompanied announcer Clem McSpadden on goodwill tours to Mexico. He was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in Belton, Texas, in 1999. Smith holds PRCA Gold Card #159.
Dan Taylor, Doole, Texas, entered his first rodeo competition at age 12. In 1942, at age 18, he joined the Cowboy Turtles Association and was issued card #64. At that time, Taylor was the youngest professional roper in the world. He won the calf roping at Ellensburg, Washington, in 1948; the average at Boston Garden, 1949; and finished fourth in the world standings in 1951.
In 1954, Taylor was named RCA Calf Roping Director and served through 1956. He was named Timed Event Chute Boss at the 1965 NFR, a position he continued through 1973. He returned as the NFR Timed Event Chute Boss in 1978-1979. He ran "Chute 9" at Cheyenne Frontier Days and was honored for more than 50 years of service in 1996. The Senior Steer Ropers named Taylor "The Master Chute Boss." He served as President of the PRCA in 1986-87.
Deceased inductees who competed before 1940 include George Elliott (1900-1981) who was a nationally known bulldogger in the 1920s. He began his rodeo-announcing career in the 1930s, traveling throughout the United States. Elliott was a member of the original Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA). He was recognized in the 1940s as one of the top four announcers in the business. He worked for rodeo producers Beutler Brothers; Homer Todd; Vern Elliott; Lamar, Jennings and Holt; and many others.
Marie "Ma" Gibson (1894-1933) participated in rodeos from 1914-1933. She supported her family by rodeoing after her husband was injured in a rodeo accident. She performed in Wild West shows as a trick rider, traveling throughout the United States competing in every well-known rodeo in the country and winning championships at nearly every one in which she appeared. In 1927 and 1931, she won the world championship in the women's bronc riding at Madison Square Garden. Gibson was critically injured and died when her bucking horse collided with the pickup man after she had made a qualified ride.
Deceased inductees who competed after 1940 include Carl Dossey (1918-1955) who entered his first rodeo in 1935. He was the first to use the "flashy" style of spurring, used by cowboys today. Dossey was known for his colorful satin and silk shirts, attracting what may have been one of the first sponsorships by a major corporation. In 1940, at age 22, he won the RCA World Champion Bareback title. He competed in bareback riding, bull riding and steer wrestling. He continued to ride until an injury sidelined his career, and he became an RCA judge.
By 1950, Dossey had judged Madison Square Garden a record seven straight years. One of his most significant contributions to rodeo was his co-invention of the electric eye starting chute, which had been approved for use at many of the larger RCA rodeos. Dossey was killed protecting his son from a team of runaway horses during a parade.
Chris LeDoux was known as a cowboy, talented musician and skilled rodeo competitor. He competed in bareback riding, bull riding and saddle bronc riding. He started participating in Little Britches rodeos, winning the National Bareback Championship in 1964. In 1967, he won the Wyoming State High School Bareback Championship and in 1969, won the National Intercollegiate Bareback Riding Championship.
After receiving his RCA card, he averaged more than 80 rodeos a year. In 1976, LeDoux won the PRCA Bareback World Championship. He was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame (2004) and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame (2005).
To support RHS in its role of helping the National Cowboy Museum preserve the history of rodeo, a benefit auction will be held Saturday evening, October 21, preceding the presentation of the prestigious Ben Johnson and Tad Lucas Memorial Awards.
Tapped for recognition as the 2006 Ben Johnson Memorial Award recipient, Cotton Rosser of Long Beach, California, says "Rodeo is a labor of love of going down the road and meeting people and seeing wonderful things. I haven't made a lot of money," he says, "but I've made a million dollars worth of friends."
A second place finish in the all-around at his first intercollegiate finals in 1949 attracted the attention of professional arena men as well as his peers at California Polytechnic. He continued his winning tradition the following year when he won the all-around and the saddle bronc championship. At Cal Poly, Rosser and his teammates started a winning rodeo tradition that would include 41 national championships before the century ended.
He was on his way to rodeo stardom and a world championship when in 1955 a debilitating ranch accident injured both of his legs. With rodeoing no longer an option, Rosser began a bucking stock breeding program and set out not only to improve the bucking stock and the overall appeal of rodeo, but to increase rodeo's entertainment value as well. He was honored by the PRCA in 1995 as the Most Colorful Man in Rodeo.
The 2006 Tad Lucas Memorial Award recipient Geraldine "Jerry" Fraser has spent 50 years leaving her mark on leather. Fraser grew up with rodeo, running barrels before meeting her husband Doc Fraser who produced and delivered bucking stock to local rodeos. The two started a saddle shop in Rogers, Arkansas, where they built and tooled saddles for trick ropers, riders and barrel racers. They expanded the business into Fraser Saddlery and Western Store and added regular saddles, bridles, belts and other leather items to their merchandise.
In the early 1960s, the couple moved to Oklahoma and later to Texas where they ran recognized American Quarter Horse races year round. Fraser kept the race records and forwarded the data to the Ozark Quarter Horse Association for its chart books. For the past two decades, Fraser has worked at M.L. Leddys in Fort Worth, as a custom boot and saddle maker where she made saddles for the winners of the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. In 2005, she carved saddles for President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush to give to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The Rodeo Historical Society of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum encourages annual membership to support its mission of preserving rodeo history. For more information, visit www.nationalcowboymuseum.org or call (405) 478-2250.
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