Dightman has finally received the attention he should have had decades
Born in Crockett
in 1935, Dightman was a legendary bull rider who set all types of
records for riding raging bulls in rodeo arenas across the United
On May 13, the people of Crockett
gathered in front of the Porth Agricultural Arena to witness the unveiling
of a statue of Dightman. Acclaimed sculptress Paula Devreaux
captured the spirit and soul of Dightman.
The Texas bull rider was not only the first black cowboy to go to
the National Rodeo Finals, but he did it seven times.
He was also the first living black cowboy to be inducted into the
National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Cowboys of Color Museum
and Hall of Fame, the Professional Bull Riders Ring of Honor, and
the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
“This dedication and desire, coupled with talent, made Myrtis’ dream
come true and helped to pave the way for others who wanted to realize
their dreams,” said a friend.
Dightman endured insults and prejudice as a black bull rider, but
he made the nation take notice when he finished eighth in the world
standings of bull riders.
In Oklahoma City, he just missed placing in the first round and didn’t
have a score in the next two rounds. But in the eighth round, it was
Dightman’s time to shine. The crowd was stunned to see a black cowboy
tie for the best ride in the final round of the rodeo’s most dangerous
Over the years, Dightman endured death threats, beatings, corrupt
rodeo judges and promoters who wouldn’t let him compete in front of
white spectators, stock contractors who assigned to him the meanest
bulls, and other forms of abuse during his career.
Even when he went home to Crockett
to ride in a rodeo, the promoters wouldn’t let him ride until the
crowd had left the arena. He rode a bull that had not been ridden
before, and won the bull riding event.
“I went to a lot of rodeos where they held me to the last, but it
didn’t make a difference because I usually won anyway.” he remembered.
Frequently turned away from motels and restaurants, Dightman lived
out of his old Chevrolet during his rodeo years.
In 1972, Dightman qualified for his sixth and final National Rodeo
When Dightman asked a longtime white rodeo rider what it would take
to win a world title, Freckles Brown told him: “Keep riding like you’ve
been riding, and turn white.”
In 1997, Dightman became the first living black cowboy inducted into
the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Bob Bowman's East TexasJune
5, 2011 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Texas Black History