DAN AND JUDY ACKLEY
Inducted in 2010
From the 1970s to the present, Dan and Judy Ackley have been Ellensburg Rodeo “regulars,” as participants, officials, volunteers, and contestants. Together, they have devoted thousands of hours of work to the growth and success of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
A Washington State native, Judy spent part of her youth in the Kittitas Valley. Her parents Robert and Maxine Wilcox were rodeo enthusiasts who always kept horses. Judy remembers rodeo clown Slim Pickens and world champion bronc rider Casey Tibbs. Judy first rode cutting horses, then started barrel-racing in her teens. Judy won the Washington Barrel Racing Association Championship in 1972 and competed in the United States and Canada for 18 years as a member of the Girls Rodeo Association/Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. A severe injury and hip replacement refocused Judy’s interests to behind the chutes, where she became a rodeo secretary in 1976.
Secretaries are essential to every rodeo, orchestrating the many complicated transactions taking place “behind the chutes” that rodeo fans never see. The secretary is in charge of the registration and processing of all cowboy contestants, ensuring they know when and where they will compete and what animals they draw. The secretary welcomes and records all entrants, collects their fees, and administers the stock drawing, placements, day money, and final “payouts” to the cowboys and cowgirls. The secretary also keeps daily and final statistics for the permanent PRCA archive.
In 1984, Judy inherited the Ellensburg Rodeo secretary post two years after the retirement of distinguished veteran Bob Swaim (’04 ERHOF Inductee). She held the post for 22 years, until 2006. Meanwhile, she “secretaried” rodeos across the Far West in the employ of leading stock contractors and several major rodeo committees. She served a stint at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO and has secretaried both the National Finals Rodeo and the Women’s National Finals Rodeo.
During her career Judy and husband Dan Ackley drove a 29-foot trailer fitted out with a complete office headquarters. “The PRCA’s computerized entries since 1976 made it easier for everyone involved,” Ackley remembers. She has many good memories of the Ellensburg Rodeo. “Tex Taliaferro was my hero,” she says of the late rodeo arena director. “Cowboys like this rodeo;” Judy remarked to John Ludtka (2006 ERHOF Inductee). “They compliment the committee for its hospitality…. It’s fine here; lots of rodeos are so impersonal, but not here. [The] popularity of this rodeo is wide.”
Ackley also fondly remembers her friendships with rodeo judges, which sometimes involved practical jokes: “We played many pranks on the judges. One year… [when they were ] Buddy Lytle, John Davis, and Tommy Keith we jacked up the rear wheels of Buddy’s car!”
Dan Ackley (1947- ) was born in Nampa, Idaho, and began riding horses at 8 years of age. A Nampa High football standout, Dan went on to play for Boise State College (now BSU). Yet like many western college football players of his era, Dan was drawn to rodeo bulldogging (steer wrestling) events. He quit the football team to help found the Boise State rodeo team while he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. Dan joined the PRCA in 1970, specializing in bulldogging but also entering the calf and team roping events. His ‘dogging horse was named “Lucky” and his hazing horse was “Bandy”; Dan’s father hazed for him.
During more than a decade of competition, Dan Ackley won dozens of western rodeo go-rounds, bulldogging titles, and championships and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo three times (’77, ’78, ’79). Following his career as a competitor, Dan followed the rodeo road with wife Judy as multi-job participant.
In Ellensburg, Dan has served as a judge, flagger, contestant liaison, chute man, and all-around utility man. Although illness has prevented Judy’s participation in recent rodeos, Dan remains an Ellensburg Rodeo stalwart to this day. He is also an outdoorsman and western metal artist, while Judy works in leather and beads. They live in Prineville, Oregon.