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    Honoring
    a Bull Riding Legend
    Myrtis Dightman

    by Bob Bowman
    Bob Bowman
    Myrtis Dightman has finally received the attention he should have had decades ago.

    Born in Crockett in 1935, Dightman was a legendary bull rider who set all types of records for riding raging bulls in rodeo arenas across the United States.

    On May 13, the people of Crockett gathered in front of the Porth Agricultural Arena to witness the unveiling of a statue of Dightman. Acclaimed sculptress Paula Devreaux captured the spirit and soul of Dightman.

    The Texas bull rider was not only the first black cowboy to go to the National Rodeo Finals, but he did it seven times.

    He was also the first living black cowboy to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame, the Professional Bull Riders Ring of Honor, and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.


    “This dedication and desire, coupled with talent, made Myrtis’ dream come true and helped to pave the way for others who wanted to realize their dreams,” said a friend.

    Dightman endured insults and prejudice as a black bull rider, but he made the nation take notice when he finished eighth in the world standings of bull riders.

    In Oklahoma City, he just missed placing in the first round and didn’t have a score in the next two rounds. But in the eighth round, it was Dightman’s time to shine. The crowd was stunned to see a black cowboy tie for the best ride in the final round of the rodeo’s most dangerous event.

    Over the years, Dightman endured death threats, beatings, corrupt rodeo judges and promoters who wouldn’t let him compete in front of white spectators, stock contractors who assigned to him the meanest bulls, and other forms of abuse during his career.

    Even when he went home to Crockett to ride in a rodeo, the promoters wouldn’t let him ride until the crowd had left the arena. He rode a bull that had not been ridden before, and won the bull riding event.

    “I went to a lot of rodeos where they held me to the last, but it didn’t make a difference because I usually won anyway.” he remembered.

    Frequently turned away from motels and restaurants, Dightman lived out of his old Chevrolet during his rodeo years.

    In 1972, Dightman qualified for his sixth and final National Rodeo Finals.

    When Dightman asked a longtime white rodeo rider what it would take to win a world title, Freckles Brown told him: “Keep riding like you’ve been riding, and turn white.”

    In 1997, Dightman became the first living black cowboy inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.


    Bob Bowman's East Texas
    June 5, 2011 Column.
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
    More People | Texas Black History
    (Bob Bowman of Lufkin. is the author of almost 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
    Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    "All Things Historical" archive >

    Related Topics:

    East Texas
    Texas Towns
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    Texas


    The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
    By Bob and Doris Bowman
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