Editor's note: This story was originally published in
The Oklahoman on Tuesday July 31, 2007.
Now that legendary bull rider Jim Shoulders has passed away, who is Oklahoma's living legend in rodeo?
put that question to a dozen longtime rodeo observers in the state. Most of them agreed that no one can match Shoulders' achievements in the arena.
"No one comes close now that Jim is gone,” said Robert Simpson, director of events at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie.
But if you consider a living legend in rodeo beyond the tougher-in-nails Oklahoma cowboys who have to eat the dirt of the arena floor on occasion, the answer is almost unanimous. It is veteran rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden of Chelsea.
"Clem is a living legend if there is one,” said 36-year rodeo announcer Lynn Phillips of Enid. "There is no doubt about it. Clem is as big as Jim Shoulders was. Even in Canada, they know who Clem McSpadden is.”
"Clem has been involved in pro rodeo for more than 60 years,” Simpson said. "He served as the general manager of the National Finals Rodeo for years.
"He is a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. He is one of the most well-respected rodeo personalities in the world. He has seen and done it all for many years. He is as big as anyone in pro rodeo.”
McSpadden, 81, also was the choice of Elsie Frost, mother of world champion bull rider Lane Frost, who was killed 18 years ago this month at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.
Frost said under McSpadden's leadership, the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City became the Super Bowl of the sport.
Oklahoma City had the National Finals Rodeo from 1962 to 1984 before Las Vegas lured it away. Phillips said today's cowboys owe a lot to McSpadden for turning the NFR and professional rodeo into a big-time event with big-time riches.
"The National Finals Rodeo really grew legs and started to walk at the fairgrounds under his tutelage,” Phillips said of McSpadden. .
"You won't find anybody in the sport of rodeo, in any place, that doesn't know who Clem McSpadden is.”
Kelly Corbin of Pawhuska, a longtime Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association judge, is another who taps McSpadden as Oklahoma's living legend.
"As far as contributions to the sport and longevity, it would be Clem McSpadden,” Corbin said. "He would be at the top of my list. Now if you are talking about competitors, that would be a little harder to pick.”
In fact, it was harder to pick. There was no consensus among those interviewed by The Oklahoman
when it comes to selecting a single rodeo cowboy as Oklahoma's living legend:
• Bulldogger Roy Duvall of Checotah qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas 21 consecutive years.