Rodeo legend Larry Mahan is already a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, earning that honor in 1999.
But 50 years after winning his first of eight gold buckles from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit, the Hall of Fame will showcase his string of world championships during Thursday’s 2015 induction ceremony in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Besides honoring Mahan, 71, inductees include rodeo clown Leon Coffee, horseman Chris Cox and quarter horse businessman/roper John Trotter. The 2015 Rick Smith Spirit of Texas Award winner is country singer Clay Walker.
The event is sold out.
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Mahan is best-known for snaring a then-record sixth PRCA world all-around title in 1973, which came after he thrived at the National Finals Rodeo year after year in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
Individual and all-around championships are based on prize winnings.
Mahan’s only single-event world titles were in bull riding, which he won in 1965 and ’67.
“I’m living proof that God takes care of idiots,” Mahan said.
Today, Mahan lives with his wife of five years, Julanne, on a ranch several miles outside Bowie, northwest of Fort Worth. Their daily lives are filled with juggling cattle and horse operations, pushing Mahan’s line of Western apparel and keeping up with frequent demands for public appearances.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Julanne Mahan said. “It’s very diverse.”
A new breed
A native or Oregon, Mahan said he became hooked on rodeo at age 6 when he won a calf riding contest and a belt buckle.
When he became pro rodeo’s front-runner in the late 1960s, Mahan was the epitome of the “new breed of cowboy,” a world-class competitor who did not grow up on a full-fledged cattle ranch.
Instead, Mahan honed his skills by competing in an abundance of local rodeos and attending a bronc riding school.
“I think I’m a perfect example of that because I grew up on a little 2-acre place with a wood-framed house,” Mahan said.
After competing in junior rodeos as a youth, Mahan eventually turned pro and qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo in 1964 in saddle bronc riding.
Two years later, he won the first of his five consecutive world all-around titles. In 1973, he won a sixth all-around title, breaking Jim Shoulders’ record of five, which had stood since 1959.
Roper/steer wrestler Tom Ferguson tied Mahan’s record of six in 1979, which stood until 1998, when Ty Murray of Stephenville won his seventh world all-around title.
In 2010, roper Trevor Brazile of Decatur surpassed Murray by winning a record eighth all-around title. Last year, Brazile earned world all-around title No. 12.
Transcending his sport
Mahan was an outgoing, charismatic competitor whose prowess helped him gain national TV exposure, such as an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where Mahan displayed his rhythmic riding ability atop a bucking barrel — a drum attached to posts by ropes and springs.
Don Gay of Mesquite, who won a record eight PRCA world bull riding titles, said Mahan was a trend setter.
“He’s probably the most awesome competitor ever,” Gay said. “He was one of the first competitors who began to study the power of positive thinking and made it popular, which influenced me as much any anything. Mahan also was one of the first to embrace sports medicine and working out.”
Mahan also was written up in nonrodeo publications such as flying magazines that were fascinated with a young cowboy star who bounced across the West in a Cessna 310.
Flying enabled Mahan to travel farther and win more, such as the Fourth of July weekend when he competed in three rodeos in one day: Cody, Wyo., in the morning; Red Lodge, Mont., in midafternoon; and Livingston, Mont., in the evening. He rode nine head of bucking stock in one day.
Mahan competed in at least 1,200 rodeos, rode 6,000 head of bucking stock and traveled about 1.5 million miles, he said.
Though he made hundreds of bone-jarring rides years ago, Mahan appears to be in great physical shape as he walks around his horse barns and houses.
“At 71, he’s a very active person,” Julanne Mahan said. “A lot of people say, ‘I bet you hurt every morning.’ But he literally bounces out of bed every morning. He can’t wait for the day to start. … He’s in great shape. I’m younger than he is and I have trouble keeping up with him.”
Class of 2015
Leon Coffee: A bullfighter, barrel man and entertainer, Coffee is a lifetime gold card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and has numerous rodeos, commercials, TV shows and movie rolls on his list of achievements.
Chris Cox: The start of the Chris Cox Horsemanship television show on RFD TV and the nationwide Ride the Journey Tour stops are known for teaching his straightforward approach to building a relationship with horses. He is a three-time undefeated world champion of Road to the Horse.
Johnny Trotter: The president of the American Quarter Horse Association, he has served as an association director for 11 years. Trotter is the CEO of Livestock Investors L.L.T. and owns Bar G Feedyard.
2015 Rick Smith Spirit of Texas Award
Clay Walker: He is being honored for being one of the most successful country acts of the past decade with hits like What's It to You and Live Until I Die. Walker has also helped raise awareness of multiple sclerosis since his diagnosis in 1996, including his own nonprofit charity, Band Against MS.
Source: Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame