I first met B. J. Pierce at Pendleton Round-Up on their 100th Anniversary. The Round-Up committee invited former winners back to celebrate their 100th year of rodeo and I visited with B. J. at that time. I learned that he had won the Calf Roping World Championship in 1952, 1953 and 1955, for the I.R.A. (which was the Rodeo Association of America and the National Rodeo Association which had originally been the Southwest Rodeo Association) that had merged in 1946 ‘to make rodeo better’. They called their joint organization the International Rodeo Association (I.R.A.). In addition, to winning these three championships, he was also ranked 3rd in the R.C.A. calf roping event for 1952 and 1953, and in 1955 he was ranked 5th. (The reason for the discrepancy between an R.C.A. World Champion and the I.R.A. World Champion was the I.R.A. did not include entry fee monies in the tally of cowboy earnings as R.A.A. had been naming World Champions since 1929 in this manner. R.C.A. did count entry fee monies.) After 1955 the I.R.A. shifted their efforts toward other rodeo business and changed their name to International Rodeo Management Association.
B. J. was born August 22, 1926, and has always lived in Clovis, New Mexico. As a youngster his grandfather Jernigan, a well-known cowboy, saw that B. J. got to rope every afternoon and taught him well. His first roping win was in 1945 at Tucumcari, NM, where he joined the R.C.A. and won between $300 and $400.
B. J. also competed in team roping, steer roping and the wild cow milking during his competitive years. Good friend, Delmar Smith of Edmond, Oklahoma, said of him, “He always took care of his rodeo business. He was dependable, well-liked, clean-cut and someone young people could look up to.”
He also played basketball and received a scholarship to play in college. Most weekends he went to Bob Crosby’s ranch to rope. His second year in college, Shorty Matlock, offered to take him down the rodeo road. Matlock was a seasoned roper that saw B. J.’s potential. When he roped, he also entered B. J. and provided the pickup, a horse, and all expenses. Matlock gave B. J. one-fourth of their winnings. Most nights they camped, slept in sleeping bags, and used a Coleman stove for cooking, to save money.
B. J. met Patty Rawls at college, fell in love and got married. In time, B. J. quit basketball and concentrated strictly on roping. His expertise in roping competitions made enough money for both he and Patty to finish their college educations. Meanwhile he trained horses for others that turned out to be good competitive roping horses.
His roping horse, Iodine, by Billy Clegg, was “a near ideal gelding” said Willard Porter, a well known expert on roping. In 1952 B. J. competed against 70 highly skilled ropers and won $1,700. He also won many of the major rodeos in the country twice, like Pendleton Round-Up, Cow Palace, Lewiston, Walla Walla (WA), Santa Maria (CA), Cheyenne and Lethbridge, (Canada). He won Ellensburg (WA) three times. Other major wins were Los Angeles, Salinas, Denver, Chicago and Tucson. He placed in Calgary, Madison Square Garden, Boston, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Havana (Cuba) and too many more to list.
In addition to his rodeo competition and horse training, he was a teacher for 31 years, and a school administrator. He and Patty had two children, Rena Joy and Ben Grady.
When you receive your Rodeo Historical Society ballot, please read the qualifications for each candidate thoroughly, and vote for those most qualified. I’m sure you will consider B. J. Pierce as one of the most highly qualified candidates.
He is being endorsed by the following Rodeo Historical Society members:
Mel Potter Dale Smith Delmar Smith Liz Kesler
Doug Clark Jack Roddy Bill Fedderson Mitzi Riley
Dilton Emerson Tater Decker Cotton Rosser Dean Oliver
Gene McLaughlin Bob Nordtome Mrs. Clem McSpadden Chuck Schroeder
In the event you are not a member of the Rodeo Historical Society please contact Stacie Michaels at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 405-478-2250 ext. 269, and ask that a membership form be sent to you quickly, so you can vote.
I hope to see each of you at the Rodeo Historical Society Induction Weekend, September 25th & 26th. It is always a very exciting and great weekend, especially if you want to meet world champions and important people of rodeo. You’ll be glad you came.