OKLAHOMA CITY - Clem McSpadden, a grand nephew of Will Rogers who went on to serve in U.S. Congress and become one of rodeo's premier announcers, has died. He was 82.
McSpadden died Monday after fighting cancer, his nephew, Herb McSpadden, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
McSpadden served as a Democrat in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1975 and founded the Congressional Rural Caucus. He ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1974, losing to the general election's eventual winner, David Boren.
He also gained fame as the announcer at the National Finals Rodeo, where he helped discover Grammy-winning country star Reba McEntire.
“He could walk with any crowd and make them feel like they were the most important person in the world,” Herb McSpadden said.
He served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1955 to 1972, including two terms as its president pro tem, but never again sought political office after his failed run for governor. He was still active as a lobbyist, and Herb McSpadden said his uncle cherished the time he got to spend with his son and grandson in the process.
“Clem McSpadden was a true Oklahoman, a dear friend and a deeply committed public servant who loved the state of Oklahoma and its people, and he spent his life working to make a difference in the lives of those around him,” Gov. Brad Henry said. “Through his work in the Oklahoma Legislature and in Congress, Clem helped to build the great state we know today.
“Clem was not only respected in political circles. Outside of the State Capitol and Washington, D.C., he was known and admired as a legendary rodeo announcer who loved the sport and carried on the heritage and tradition of the West.”
McSpadden was born Nov. 9, 1925, in Bushyhead and was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State in 1948.
He remained involved in the rodeo during his political career, announcing the National Finals Steer Roping a record 27 times between 1963 and 2000. Roy Cooper called McSpadden “the voice of rodeo.”
McSpadden called rodeos throughout North America, including the National Finals Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede and the Canadian Finals Rodeo. He was inducted into both the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.