A lot of judges make decisions about the winning cattle at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
But only one, Roy Eaton, names the champion of the event.
“It’s an emotional thing for me to be the guy who said ‘and the grand champion is …,’ ” said Eaton, who is celebrating his 50th year as an announcer for Stock Show events, including decades of announcing the winner of the Junior Steer Show, the marquee crowning at the 23-day show. “It is always special.”
Eaton has seen a lot of special moments in his half-century behind the Stock Show microphone. LBJ was still in office when Eaton took the job of announcing the Stock Show parade in 1967.
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“I was working at KXOL, which is a radio station that no longer exists. They decided that they needed somebody to announce so that [parade] judges would know who in the heck was coming. And that’s how I got started with the Stock Show,” said Eaton, 79, of Decatur. “Then, about 20 years ago, they decided that they would get some professional broadcast people to do the livestock shows. So I have done that ever since.”
And it is little wonder that Eaton has kept the job. His smooth, gentle voice can calm an arena full of skittish steers and nervous kids. In the announcing booth, he has an unflappable presence and never seems to stumble on a word or a name.
“I butcher some of them,” said a laughing Eaton, who has announced countless names in his various duties at the Stock Show. And regulars at the event would be quick to tell you that his batting average in the names department is pretty good.
“I try to introduce every kid,” said Eaton, whose broadcasting career included stints at WBAP radio and TV. “That’s the biggest challenge: finding a way, in the brief time we have, to make the kids and their parents feel special.”
Eaton could easily have turned out to be one the competitors he names in the arena. But he chose a different path.
“I was brought up on a farm and ranch near Rhome. My dad raised Hereford and polled Hereford cattle,” said Eaton, who also took agriculture classes in high school. “But I decided early on that I didn’t want to be a rancher. I was interested in journalism, especially the broadcast side.”
That led him to TCU, where he was a classmate with legendary CBS newsman Bob Schieffer. The two went on to work together at KXOL.
But despite his interest and successes in broadcast journalism, print media turned out to be the most enduring part of his varied career.
“All my life, I had read the Wise County Messenger,” said Eaton, who was once the automotive writer at the Star-Telegram. “In 1973, it came up for sale, and I bought it.”
Eaton is still the owner-publisher of the twice-weekly Messenger, with a staff of 20. He clearly loves his journalistic work, but he also welcomes the break that the Stock Show brings.
“It is different than covering the courts and the fire departments,” said Eaton.
Greeter and traffic cop
At the Stock Show, Eaton feels his main duties are to be a greeter and a bit of a traffic cop.
“My job is to welcome the people to Fort Worth and the Stock Show, and to keep the show running real smoothly,” Eaton said. “I am here to honor the kids and work with the superintendents.”
The superintendents, Stock Show officials who oversee all aspects of a particular competition, work in tandem with Eaton to assure that everything is done correctly.
“There is a trust factor between the announcer and the superintendents. I really enjoy working with them,” Eaton said.
That respect is mutual.
“Roy is very, very good. We think he is one of the best announcers they have ever had. He does a great job,” said Tom Woodward, also of Decatur, a longtime superintendent for the Junior Heifer Show. “I hope he lives to be 200 years old. He’s a super guy.”
For those reasons, the Junior Heifer Show superintendents all signed a certificate of appreciation that was presented to Eaton on Saturday, honoring him for his 50 years of service and proclaiming him an “announcer extraordinaire.”
Eaton is cutting back a bit on his work at the Stock Show, but he still enjoys the “ambiance and the atmosphere.”
“But I think the most important thing is the enjoyment of the relationships you develop.”
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