“We lost the biggest tree that's ever grown in the rodeo forest.”
That's longtime friend Clem McSpadden's reaction to the death of rodeo legend Jim Shoulders on Wednesday.
Shoulders died in his sleep at his Henryetta home from complications related to heart disease. He was 79.
“He was a hero of mine,” said McSpadden, who will be on hand for the Heart of America rodeo on Friday and Saturday nights. “I can't hardly remember when I did not know Jim Shoulders. I am just 2 years older than Jim - I met him in the mid-40s when I was still in high school.”
Shoulders had a stellar career as a rodeo cowboy then turned to producing rodeos. He was in charge of Miami's rodeo in the 1950s and '60s.
“He had one of the greatest sets of bulls that anybody had,” McSpadden said. “‘Tornado' was turned out 232 times before Freckles Brown rode him in the 1967 Finals. Jim was the first man out to congratulate Freckles.”
A charter member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., he became known to a new generation when he joined the Miller Lite “All Star” advertising campaign on television and in print ads.
“He was a 16-time world champion, but a lot of people forgot he was a nine time reserve champion,” McSpadden said. “He was a four-time runner-up for all-around, and five times was runner-up either in bull riding or bareback riding.”
The Oklahoma Hall of Fame inducted Shoulders in 1975 for his years of public service, and in 1989 he was selected to become a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
McSpadden will deliver the eulogy at Shoulder's funeral Sunday afternoon at the Jim Shoulder Arena in Henryetta.