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Myrtis Dightman, SR. the man behind the Crockett, Texas Rodeo and Trail Ride

Cover Story written by Maxine Sessions

Read entire article in the September Issue of 2007 of the Texass Informer  

Between 5,000 and 8,000 black cowboys, mostly ex-slaves, are said to have ridden the cattle trails and helped maintained ranches between 1866-1896.

Myrtis Dightman, Sr. of Houston, formerly of Crockett, Texas is a true blue cowboy at heart and spirit, who followed in the footsteps of the early black cowboys. Having qualified for the National Rodeo Finals in 1966, he blazed a trail to the National Rodeo for the black cowboy.  On
Labor Day weekend, Saturday September 1, hundreds of Crockett citizens and people from around the state took part in celebrating the nineteenth annual Myrtis Dightman Rodeo. The Rodeo not only

Myrtis Dightman Jr. and J. T. Thomas



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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  full story in pdf format or pick up a copy of the September edition of the Texas Informer.

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