Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame
OriginIn early 1983 a small group of Willcox leaders launched an effort to honor one of the important resources of the Willcox area - its people. The Executive Director of the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture (Ellen Clark), together with Willcox native artist Carl Clapp and American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer J. Ernest Browning started the process.
A set of six charter members were selected and their portraits painted ready for the first induction ceremony held in September 1983 at the Willcox Community Center. The inaugural event was a great success with steaks provided by Willcox Packing House, prepared by the Chamber Director and cooked by Freddie Romero from the City.
Since the initial event the celebration has grown with each year's inductees selected by their peers. Additional inductees have included a posthumous category. A concurrent celebration for "Favorite Son/Daughter" has been sponsored by the Arizona Range News.
While initially housed at the Chamber of Commerce building the Cowboy Hall of Fame portrait gallery is currently located in the Rex Allen 'Arizona Cowboy' Museum on Railroad Avenue in the historic section of Willcox.
BackgroundThe Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame was instituted September 10, 1983. The Cowboy Hall of Fame was not to be just for big-time ranchers, but rather was to be a celebration of all the ordinary people who have made this country great.
Yep, these cowboys are real!
“The early western movies we made were poor imitation of the reality of the cowboys who made their living on the range. We knew better.”
These old-time cowboys represent a survivalist, independent way of life that still prevails. They had to be “real cowboys” and that wasn’t an easy life. The “real cowboy” knew nothing but hard work, constantly battled with the elements and various enemies and received little reward in material things. These men and women reflect the pride and rich heritage of the cattle business in southeast Arizona. They were accustomed to a deal being made by the word of two honest men and a handshake. These cowboys like to talk about the times gone by, but not about themselves. They don’t talk in long sentences and don’t make long speeches.
The Willcox area has a long association with cattle. Cochise County is the leading county in the state in livestock numbers, with 300 of the state’s 1,200 full-time commercial ranches and 18% of Arizona’s range cattle. In the 1930s, Willcox was the largest range cattle rail shipping point in the United States earning Willcox the title of “Cattle Capital of the World”. Thus, it is most fitting that the people of Willcox have a Cowboy Hall of Fame to honor their town and those who helped build it.
Inductees to the Hall of Fame must have lived in the Willcox area for at least 30 years and must have generated a major portion of their income from the livestock industry. Equal consideration is given to ranch owners and “working cowboys” for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Consideration is given to their level of involvement in the livestock industry at the local, state and national levels as well as stewards of the natural resources they manage. Each year posthumous selections are also made.
Minimum requirements to be a cowboy:
- A wide brimmed hat and a pair of tight pants, and twenty dollar boots from a discount store.
- At least two head of livestock-preferably cattle-one male, one female.
- An air-conditioned pickup with automatic transmission, power steering and trailer hitch.
- A gun rack for the rear window of the pickup big enough to hold a walking stick and rope.
- Two dogs to ride in the back of the pickup.
- A forty dollar horse and a three hundred dollar saddle.
- A goose-neck horse trailer small enough to park in front of a cafe or bar.
- A place to keep the cows, on land too poor to grow grass.
- A spool of barb wire, three fence posts, and a bale of hay to haul around in the back of the truck all day.
- Credit at the bank.
- Credit at the feed store.
- Credit from your father-in-law.
- A good neighbor to feed the dogs and cattle when you are away.
- A pair of silver spurs to wear when you dress up.
- A cushion to sit on for hours at the livestock auction every Thursday.
- A wife that believes your lies and has a good job.