Editor's note: This story was originally published in
The Oklahoman on Sunday, November 18, 2007.
Clem McSpadden is a rodeo legend.
A rodeo announcer for 60 years, McSpadden was the first person from the United States to announce Canada's famous Calgary Stampede.
He has been honored by almost every major rodeo organization in the nation.
In April, he will receive the Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award during the annual Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
The general manager for the National Finals Rodeo during 18 of the 19 years it was in Oklahoma City, McSpadden is the man most instrumental for turning it into the major sporting event that enticed Las Vegas to lure it away in 1985.
A state senator from 1955 to 1972 and president pro tempore for two years, McSpadden was a U.S. Congressman for two years, then won the Democratic primary for governor before losing to David Boren in the runoff.
At age 82, McSpadden is still announcing rodeos. He wants his funeral to be his retirement party.
He also owns a consulting firm (a nice way of saying you are a lobbyist, he says) with his son and grandson.
I was born in the little town of Bushyhead,
five miles south of Chelsea. We've kept a ranch together that my grandparents started in 1885.
I've told a lot of people that we've never made enough money to leave the county.
My great grandfather had a trading post in what is now Rogers County before the Civil War. We have been around awhile.
I grew up around ropers.
My father was an old-time steer roper, and roped with people like John McEntire, Reba's grandfather.
My father was a nephew of Will Rogers
and was the foreman on the old Rogers ranch in Oologah where Uncle Will was born. I roped as a kid, then I got in high school and started entering some rodeos that paid money.
I announced my first rodeo in 1947.
At a little place called Story City Iowa, the announcer had to go home before the rodeo was over and somebody said, ‘Well, hell, McSpadden's got a big mouth, he can talk.' So I blundered my way through the last performance. Then we went from there to Davenport to enter a three-day rodeo and the announcer had to cancel at the last minute so I got that job.
Slideshow: Collected Wisdom of Clem McSpadden