CASEY TIBBS (1929-1990)
Inducted in 2001
Casey Tibbs is a 2001 Inductee to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame. A giant name in the history of 1940s and 1950s North American rodeo, Tibbs was a featured competitor in Ellensburg during that “golden age.” Casey Tibbs was born March 5, 1929, in a log cabin on his parents’ homestead, near the confluence of the Cheyenne and Missouri Rivers at Pierre, South Dakota. The day he was born his parents told his brothers and sisters the “coyotes” had brought him! The youngest boy in a family of ten children, Casey rode horseback daily, twenty miles to school and back. In 1943, the curly-headed 14 year-old Tibbs entered his first bronc riding competition. He was so poor that he hitchhiked from show to show: “He would lie across the highway to attract the attention of motorists passing by in order to get a ride,” it is told. Tibbs built his fame as a “rhythm rider.” Rodeo historian Willard Porter notes that Tibbs, “though strong, was slight of build. He depended upon ‘floating’ a horse rather than ‘anchoring’ himself in the saddle by brute strength.” Tibbs discussed his style in a more earthy fashion: “When a bronc starts mixing up his tricks you’ve got to know your business. If you don’t, you’ll either pop your gizzard or eat dirt.” By the early 1950s, handsome Casey Tibbs had become a superstar in North American rodeo. Life Magazine’s 1951 cover story on Casey marked the first time a rodeo cowboy had achieved such notoriety. Tibbs won the World All-Around title twice (’51, ‘55) and the World Saddle Bronc title six times (’49, ‘51-’54, ’59) and was World Champion Bareback Rider (’51). “Twice in my life I thought about getting hurt as I came out of the chute,” Tibbs told Life Magazine. “If I ever feel like that a third time, I’ll quit.” Casey Tibbs did retire, but only after having broken thirty bones in the course of a magnificent bronc riding career. Casey followed rodeo with a show business career. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the handsome South Dakota cowboy appeared in movies and on television. He endorsed his own line of western clothing, contracted stock, produced and performed in old-timers’ rodeos, and donated his time to charities and youth organizations such as 4-H. In 1962, Tibbs served as consultant to Stoney Burke, a television series, starring Jack Lord, based loosely on his own career. Meanwhile, Tibbs was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs and immortalized by a twice-lifesize statue of him aboard a bucking bronc. Casey Tibbs was always a crowd favorite at the Ellensburg Rodeo, where he competed regularly during the 1950s. He won three Ellensburg saddle bronc buckles (’48, 49. ‘54), two bareback buckles (’50, ’52) and he was Ellensburg All-Around Champion (‘54). Casey Tibbs is thus one of the greatest cowboys to have ever competed in the Ellensburg Rodeo.