celebrates Myrtis Dightman’s place in
history, but it provides family entertainment and the
opportunity for cowboys of today to showcase their
skills in riding, roping, steer wrestling and barrel
racing. Myrtis’ parents Ada Lee and O. D. Dightman
raised him on a ranch. He attended school in Crockett
and learned the ins and outs of ranching from O. D. as
he worked beside him on the ranch. In the 1950’s he
moved to Houston to find a job. Each year he noticed
rodeos came to town. He noticed there were never any
black cowboys that participated in those rodeos. It
bothered him so much that he went to the organizer of
one of the rodeos and questioned him. He was told, “You
can participate in the rodeo, but the white guys won’t
like it. You will be called dirty names and they will
mistreat you. “What you should do is start your own
rodeo”. So, along
with his longtime friend, James Francis, in 1957 Myrtis
went to the administrators of Prairie View A & M
University, told them his concerns and asked for help .
They agreed to help him under one condition, that he
would never have alcohol on the campus. The black rodeo
and trail rides were organized and became a part of
activities held at Prairie View .It was soon taken to
Houston. One of the parade routes centered around
Shepard Street and Washington Avenue to Memorial Park.
Myrtis watched Rodeos on television and never saw black
cowboys. Again, this bothered him. “I only wanted to
show the world and other black cowboys that we could be
successful in the Rodeo arena”, Mr. Dightman said. “The
judges will not give you the score you deserve.
They will treat you unfairly and mark you down,” he was
told by his friend Freddie. Against the advice of
friends, Myrtis set his heart on competitions that would
get him to the National Rodeo. He was a diesel truck
driver, but he started fighting bulls as a rodeo clown.
In 1961 he began riding bulls. It was difficult, because
he never got the score to place. He would alternate
between riding bulls and driving truck. Soon after
entering the arena, Dightman earned the respect of
cowboys of all races. Finally, in 1964 he placed 15th.
In 1966, he became the first black cowboy to qualify for
the National Finals Rodeo. View
in pdf format or pick up a copy of the
September edition of the Texas Informer.