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Clem McSpadden

Legends of Rodeo

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Introduction:

Clem McSpadden is the first inductee into the continuing series - Legends of Rodeo - here on About Rodeo.

Biography:

Clem Rogers McSpadden was born on November 9, 1925 in northeastern Oklahoma, in Rogers County. Clem's father, Herb McSpadden (his mother's name was Madalyn), managed a ranch near Bushyhead and Oologah where Clem spent his childhood. The Dog Iron Ranch was the property of famous Oklahoman Will Rogers, who also happened to be Clem's great-uncle.

In 1938, at the tender age of 12, McSpadden demonstrated his horsemanship by taking part in a Pony Express re-enactment ride, carrying a mail package from Oologah to Claremore in Oklahoma.

After spending his youth on the ranch, Clem enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a Naval Officer during World War II. After the war he entered college finally receiving his degree from Oklahoma A&M in 1948. During his time at college, McSpadden was a member of Oklahoma A&M's first rodeo team.

McSpadden's career as a rodeo announcer, for which he is most well known, began in 1947 when he announced a rodeo in Davenport, Iowa after the scheduled announcer didn't show. He also won the calf roping (earning $286 dollars) at the same rodeo.

For the next 60 years, McSpadden announced some of professional rodeo's greatest events including the National Finals Rodeo. He was also the first American to announce the Calgary Stampede and the Canadian National Finals. He has announced rodeos in 41 states (including Hawaii) and was the voice of rodeo on television in the 1960's for 5 years on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

Some of McSpadden's longest rodeo associations were in Oklahoma. As the grand-nephew of Will Rogers, Clem has announced the Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo (for over 50 years), the Will Rogers Stampede (for over 40 years), the Days of '47 in Utah, and the Silver Spurs Semi-annual Rodeo in Florida.

Political Career:

Clem McSpadden also cultivated a successful career in politics concurrent with his rodeo accomplishments. He served as Oklahoma state senator as a Democrat from 1955 to 1972. In 1972 he was elected to the US House of Representatives and served one term.

Lasting Accomplishments:

In 1974 McSpadden let a Southeastern Oklahoma State University student sing the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo that year. The young girl was a family friend and instantly got the approval from Clem. The young girl's name - Reba McEntire.

McSpadden has been credited with turning the National Finals Rodeo into the Super Bowl of rodeo. Before its current home in Las Vegas, Oklahoma City was the place where rodeo crowned their world champions and it was Clem who served as general manager of the NFR from 1967 to 1984 when the event finally went to Nevada.

One of Clem's most enduring legacies will no doubt be the Rodeo Cowboys Prayer which he penned in the 1950's. This powerful prayer has become a popular representation of the rodeo competitor's lifestyle. It has been read by Clem at several of the funerals of rodeo's great pioneers and competitors.

Click here for a list of Clem McSpadden's rodeo honors...

The Cowboy Rides Away:

Clem McSpadden passed away late Monday night (July 7th, 2008) at the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after a long battle with cancer. His memorial service was held on Saturday July 12th at the Bushyhead Arena. Reba McEntire sang for family and friends of this rodeo legend. He was laid to rest at the Chelsea Cemetery in Oklahoma. He was 82 years old.

The whole rodeo world mourns deeply. He will be deeply missed...

(Some Information Provided by the PRCA)
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