Bill Pickett: Pickett, who was born near Taylor, Tx., in 1870, was later called the “Greatest Cowboy” of his day, and the world’s “Colored Champion of Bull-Dogging.” He left school in the 5th grade to become a ranch hand, and soon he began to ride horses and watch the long horn steers of his native Texas.
Pickett practiced a stunt by riding hard and springing from his horse and wrestling the steer to the ground. He then would bite and hold the steer’s sensitive nose and lip until the steer held still. This act coined Bill Pickett the stunt name of the “Bulldogger.”
Bill Pickett soon became known for his tricks and stunts at local country fairs. With his four brothers, he established The Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. The name of Bill Pickett soon became synonymous with successful rodeos.
In 1932 after he retired from the wild west shows, Pickett was killed when he was kicked in the head by a wild bronco. In 1971, Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Myrtis Dightman: A pioneer in bull riding, Dightman was born on May 7, 1935, in Crockett, Tx. His first introduction to the Prairie View Trailride was in 1957, and later he worked as a bullfighter or rodeo clown. It wasn’t until 1960 that Dightman began bull riding for the first time.
In 1966, Dightman became the first black cowboy to qualify for the Professional Rodeo Association National Finals. He went on to qualify six more times, missing just once between 1966 and 1972. Dightman finished third in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Standings in 1967-68.
He also won the Calgary Stampede in 1971, and in the following year, Dightman won the bull riding competition at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and competed in his last Pro Rodeo Association National Finals, placing seventh overall.
After retiring from bull riding, Dightman was inducted into several Hall of Fames including the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame as its first living African American, and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001, Dightman was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and in 2003, he entered the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame.
Jesse Stahl: Stahl set the standard of performance in saddle bronc riding that continues to this day. Stahl was a topnotch horseman and a cowboy who was regarded by many who saw his performances as larger than life.
Conflicting sources establish Jesse Stahl’s birthplace as Tennessee, Tx., or California sometime between 1879 and 1883. Nothing is known about his childhood other than he had a brother named Ambrose. Both brothers joined the rodeo circuit but only Jesse went on to fame.
Jesse Stahl is most famous for his performance at the Salinas Rodeo in California in 1912. Before over 4,000 fans, Stahl stole the show in the rodeo’s classic event of saddle bronc riding on the bronco named Glass Eye. The horse would buck, twist his body 180-degrees midair, and land in the exact opposite direction.
Stahl invented the rodeo technique of “hoolihanding,” literally leaping from a horse onto the back of a 2,000-pound bull, grabbing its horns, overpowering the animal, and rooting it into the ground tethered by its horns. He wowed sellout audiences with his bravery and exceptional performances until hoolihanding was outlawed.
Stahl retired in 1929 and died in Sacramento, California in 1935. He is remembered today as a peerless roughrider. He was posthumously inducted into Oklahoma City’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979, only the second black cowboy (after Bill Pickett) to receive that honor.
Charles Sampson: Sampson was born July 2, 1957, in Los Angeles, Calf. He rode his first bull at age 12 and won his first rodeo at age 17. He received rodeo scholarship to Central Arizona College and joined Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit in 1977. He became World Champion bull rider in 1982 and performed in 1983 at the Presidential Command Performance Rodeo.
Sampson was hired by Timex to promote the durability of their watches and he signed endorsement contract with Wrangler Jeans. He appeared ten times in national finals rodeo and earned more than $900,000 in prize money as bull rider during his 17-year career.
Breaking new ground in the rough-and-tumble world of bull riding, Sampson became the first African American to win a championship in his event in professional rodeo. He set a record for earnings in bull riding in 1982 when he became one of the best- known cowboys on the roping-and-riding circuit. Sampson is one of only two African-American cowboys to have been inducted in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame
After 17 years as a PRCA bull rider, which included ten appearances in the National Finals Rodeo, Sampson decided to retire following the completion of in 1994 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho.
Abe Morris: Morris grew up in Woodstown, N.J., and got his start at Cowtown Rodeo riding junior bulls. After graduation from high school he attended the University of Wyoming on academic and rodeo scholarships.
He was a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and competed on the Wyoming rodeo team for four years. While at the University of Wyoming, he became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and earned a degree in Business Management. He competed in the bull riding event at various rodeos throughout the United States. Soon after graduating from college Abe obtained his PRCA announcer’s card and is the only African-American to have earned this distinction.
Morris was a broadcast commentator for the telecasts of the world famous Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo for nine years with Prime Sports and FOX Sports Networks. He has been featured in several newspaper articles and television news stories as a result of his professional bull riding career. He qualified for the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo eight times and the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo twice.
Outside of the rodeo arena Morris was a very successful businessman and sold life insurance and annuity products. He finished third in the nation in 1994 for MMCA the financial services company that employed him. He has also had a great deal of success since he started writing in 2002. His articles have been published in several different publications.
Willie Thomas: Thomas was born on January 30, 1930, in Richmond, Tx. Willie started working at the A.P George Ranch as a yardman and was eventually promoted taking care of the livestock, such as feeding and milking ten herds of cattle a day. At age 16 Willie was promoted with others, to taking care of approximately 500 bulls at the ranch. During feedings Willie would jump off the feed wagon onto the bull’s back and ride it without a rope.
Thomas first started rodeoing in 1948. The first rodeo in which he participated was in Hempstead, Tx. The entry fee was $3.00 in bull riding. He was bucked off and on the second day disqualified for slapping with his free hand. The second rodeo he participated in was held at the Diamond L Ranch on South Main, Houston owned by PRCA Gold cardholder Jerome Sweeney. His first win was third place in the amount of $35.00. From that day on, Willie participated in the bull riding for three consecutive years without being thrown.
His first Professional Rodeo was in 1953 when he obtained his PRCA card in San Antonio. Because he was an amateur and rookie, he would put his rope on backward from other cowboys in the professional rank.
Thomas’ second professional rodeo was in San Antonio where he rode a bull that had never been ridden. He won second in the competition. The Third bull was for all the average money. Thomas rode the bull for approximately fourteen seconds and stepped off, and then the whistle blew.
This left a bitter taste in Willie and he did not attend another PRCA show for one year. Thomas returned to the PRCA rodeo in 1958 where he rode and won in Boston, Mass., and Madison Square Garden in New York, Harrisburg, Pa., Austin and Waco, Tx. Thomas won over 20 belt buckles and saddles for bull riding, bareback riding and all-around Cowboy from 1953-1969.
Source: The patriot News
By JAMES PHILLIPS, The Patriot-News
on August 13, 2011 at 7:56 PM