Proud Of East Texas: Myrtis Dightman

Growing up on a ranch near Crockett, Myrtis Dightman always wanted to be a rodeo cowboy, but it was the turbulent sixties and there were no African Americans in professional rodeoing.  At first Dightman worked as a rodeo bull fighter, protecting fallen cowboys from the bulls.  In 1961, Dightman began competing as a professional bull rider, when rodeo producers would let him into the arena, but Dightman kept on riding and he kept on winning.

Dightman was the first black cowboy to make it to the National Finals.  He qualified seven times, winning a third and a second, but never the world title.  He was told he would have to keep on riding like he was and "turn white" before he could win the title.  Twenty years later, Dightman's protege Charlie Sampson became the first World Champion black bull rider.

In 1997 Myrtis Dightman became the first living black cowboy to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall Of Fame.  Three other halls of fame followed.

For the past twenty years, Dightman has sponsored the "Myrtis Dightman Rodeo" with proceeds going for scholarships.  This year's rodeo will be held August 30th at the Porth Ag Indoor Arena in Crockett . Tickets are available at the Baskins Western Wear and Walmart Super Center in Crockett.

Joan Hallmark, Reporting.