April 6, 2011 - Colorado Springs, Colorado - The ProRodeo Hall of Fame will be paying tribute to all facets of America's first extreme sport with a 2011 induction class that includes two contestants, a rodeo wheel horse, a standout animal athlete, a longtime contract personnel act and a rodeo committee.
The July 16 ceremony in the garden area of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy will enshrine the late three-time World Champion cowboy Burel Mulkey, two-time World Champion Bareback Rider Lan LaJeunesse, PRCA Chairman of the Board and longtime San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Keith Martin, the late three-time PRCA Bucking Horse of the Year War Paint, trick rider/roper J.W. Stoker and the Deadwood (S.D.) Days of '76 rodeo.
The induction will be the centerpiece of a week-long celebration that will include a Special Rodeo at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame arena on July 13, the Cowboy Ball at the Hall of Fame on July 15 and a ProRodeo Hall of Fame golf tournament at the Country Club of Colorado on July 18. The third annual Commissioner's Classic Team Roping will be held at 2 p.m. July 16, following the induction.
Mulkey, who grew up on a ranch near Salmon, Idaho, was an original member of the Cowboys' Turtle Association and won back-to-back saddle bronc riding world championships in 1937-38. He was so dominant during the 1938 season that he earned more money than any multi-event contestant and was named the world champion all-around cowboy.
Mulkey began his career relatively late, entering his first professional rodeo in Ogden, Utah, in 1928 - at age 24 - but was a preeminent figure in the sport for more than a decade, winning major titles in Fort Worth, Texas; New York City; Salinas, Calif.; Reno, Nev.; Los Angeles; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Red Bluff, Calif.
He retired after his daughter, Myrna, was born in 1946 and lived on a ranch with his family near Lake Isabella, Calif., working in the oilfields and then as a brand inspector in that region for the Department of Agriculture. Mulkey died on Nov. 20, 1982.
"I'm sure my dad is looking down and saying, ?Thanks a million,' " said daughter Myrna Sweeney. "He loved rodeoing. It was his life. He used to say to me that he couldn't understand how people could live their lives doing something they didn't enjoy. He never had a bad day. This he would have loved."
LaJeunesse (pronounced La-ju-Ness) made a spectacular debut at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 1999 by shattering the NFR average record (813 points in 10 rounds) in bareback riding and the event earnings record ($99,487) on his way to a narrow world championship victory over Pete Hawkins; he won by just $822.
Two years later, LaJeunesse, of Morgan, Utah, held off young challenger Bobby Mote by riding all 10 horses and finishing second in the average at the 2001 Wrangler NFR to claim his second gold buckle.
LaJeunesse won a gold medal in the 2002 Olympic rodeo in Farmington, Utah, and had wins at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo (Pocatello, Idaho), the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days before retiring in 2004 with career earnings of $662,941.
"Actually, my wife got the call (from ProRodeo Hall of Fame Director Sammi Snow) and relayed the message," LaJeunesse said. "You could have blown me over with a feather. I couldn't believe it. I was pretty excited. It's quite an honor to be placed up there with that caliber of cowboys.
"I had hoped that I could be (a Hall of Famer), but it was never really a reality."
Martin has served as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo for the past decade, a period of unprecedented growth and success for the PRCA's only regular-season $1 million rodeo. San Antonio has been voted the PRCA's Large Indoor Rodeo Committee of the Year in each of the last six years and raises nearly $9 million a year in scholarship awards for the youth of Texas.
He also serves as chairman of the board of the PRCA and from 2007-08 was interim CEO and commissioner of the PRCA. He is a member of the board of trustees for the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy and is a member of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Committee.
"I was very surprised and simultaneously very humbled and excited," Martin said upon learning of his selection. "I was not expecting this. In fact, I didn't even remember that it was that time of year again until (Commissioner) Karl (Stressman) called with the news.
"It took a while to sink in. Having been involved with the sport all these years (he started as a volunteer at San Antonio in 1969), I know what the ProRodeo Hall of Fame means to the people in our industry. I walk through the Hall every time I'm in Colorado Springs, but I never really thought about being in the Hall with the great men and women of our industry."
War Paint, the product of a registered Quarter Horse stud and a wild pinto mare, was raised by Orvy Summers on the Klamath Indian reservation and became the greatest saddle bronc horse of his generation. As part of the Christensen Brothers string, War Paint was voted the PRCA Bucking Horse of the Year in each of the first three years the honor was bestowed. He won it outright in 1956-57 and shared the award with Harry Knight's Joker in 1958.
In his one appearance at the NFR in 1959, War Paint bucked off Les Johnson and took Jim Tescher to a second-place finish in Round 7. Over the course of a career that lasted nearly two decades into the late 1960s, War Paint had nearly a 90-percent buck-off rate. He died in October 1975.
"War Paint usually had guys bucked off on his first three jumps out of the chute because he was so strong," said Bobby Christensen Jr., son of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor of the same name.
"They had us bring him out to Denver those years (1956-58) when he was bucking horse of the year, to match up with the saddle bronc riding champion. I remember Alvin Nelson getting on him there (in 1958) and getting his head stuck in the ground."
Stoker, 83, was equally adept as a trick rider or trick roper. He started when he was 9 years old under the tutelage of Pinky Barnes, who worked in Wild West shows and the movies. Stoker took to it so well that he got his first job at 10 and show producer Clyde Miller sealed the deal by hiring both of Stoker's parents to travel with the show, starting a professional career that would extend more than 70 years.
Not only did Stoker work the biggest rodeos - Cheyenne, Madison Square Garden, Calgary, Boston Garden, Denver, Fort Worth and Salinas - but he performed in Western shows all over the world from Cuba to Venezuela to Great Britain.
In 1973, Stoker spent seven months working for Casey Tibbs' Wild West Show in Japan and later for the state of Nevada as a means to publicize the state and encourage tourism.
Stoker won the Will Rogers Centennial Trick Roping Contest in 1979 in Claremore, Okla. He also did trick roping in the Clint Eastwood film Bronco Billy and in Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe.
Since 1998, the Deadwood (S.D.) Days of '76 Rodeo Committee has won rodeo committee of the year awards 11 times, the first four in the Small Outdoor Rodeo category and all seven of the Medium Rodeo Committee awards since that category was created in 2004. Deadwood is also a 13-time winner of the Badlands Circuit Rodeo of the Year Award (1998-2010). The committee has increased the prize money 600 percent over the last 20 years.
With the Black Hills as a backdrop, the log grandstands, historic parades and Wild Bill Hickok pageantry that go with the rodeo, it has been a favored destination for generations of rodeo contestants.
"This committee has worked tirelessly to improve, add more money and give the cowboys and fans the best show possible," said Clint Johnson, four-time world champion saddle bronc rider and ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee.
"We started with the Rodeo Association of America, and then went to the Cowboys' Turtle Association when it got started, the RCA and PRCA," said Jon Mattson, a member of the Deadwood committee for 35 years. "We've been a proud PRCA rodeo ever since we began. When we open our $5.5-million museum next year we are going to have a PRCA Room to emphasize that connection."
Mattson called all 18 of the other standing members of the committee to give them the news on the night of April 5, and all of them are planning to come to the induction with their spouses, along with Deadwood Mayor Francis Toscana.
ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of former contestants, PRCA officials and rodeo experts. More than 150 individuals are nominated each year, and selection is based on contributions to the sport of professional rodeo in any of seven categories: contestant, contract personnel, stock contractors, rodeo committees, livestock, media, notables and lifetime achievement.
Including this year's inductees, 221 people, 26 animals and 17 rodeo committees have been selected for enshrinement in Colorado Springs since the Hall opened in 1979.