Inducted in 2004
Born in Hope, New Mexico, July 12, 1899, Everett Bowman was eulogized by the Phoenix Gazette in 1971 as “both the Babe Ruth and George Washington of professional rodeo.” Raised in Texas and Arizona, Everett Bowman hit the “rodeo road” in 1924 and never stopped cowboying. Standing six feet, two inches tall and weighing in at 200 pounds, he became a dominant contender in timed events; he also founded the Cowboy Turtles Association (CTA), the first professional rodeo cowboys’ group to organize and demand better payout and judging in the sport.
Everett Bowman’s (1899-1971) role in Ellensburg dates back to the rodeo’s inception in the mid-1920s. Bowman won the Ellensburg Calf Roping buckle in ’26, the Bulldogging Championship in ’26, ’27, and ’32, and he won the Ellensburg All-Around title in both ‘26 and ’27. This is a record that places him alongside Bill McMacken and Tom Ferguson (both inducted into ERHOF in 1997) as one of the winningest cowboys in the Ellensburg Rodeo’s history.
At the World level, Bowman numbers are outstanding: He won the World Calf Roping in ’29, ’35, ’37, Steer Roping in ’37, Bulldogging Championships in ’30, ’33, ’35, ’38, and was World All-Around Champion in ’35 and ’37 (he was All-Around runner-up in ’36, ’38, and ’39). During his nineteen-year professional career, Bowman rode a string of celebrated horses—Mickey, Coon Dog, Chico, Possum, and Speckle Back.
“He was a cowboy’s cowboy,” neighbor and competitor Phil Meadows once said. “He did more to put the cowboy in good graces than any other man.”
During his fast-paced career, and at the height of his prowess, Everett Bowman somehow found time for administrative work. He founded the Cowboy Turtles Association (the precursor to today’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and led them out of Boston Garden on strike in November of 1936 to secure their status in professional rodeo. Naming themselves “Turtles” because they were “so danged slow getting organized,” the cowboys’ chief complaints were over the order of events, judging, and, especially, prize money—they wanted their entry fees directly applied to the purse. It was shady rodeo promoters and “no payoff shows,” Meadows remembered, “that Everett…worked against.”
Ellensburg previously had a good relationship with Bowman and professional cowboys, but in 1937 the Turtles boycotted Ellensburg (and Pendleton) as part of a nationwide protest. Ellensburg Rodeo President Harry Anderson and Bowman went toe to toe. ERHOF Board member Bertha Morrison remembers the ’37 strike well, and says Bowman personally warned local cowboys (including her late husband Chet) “they would be fined $500 for competing in Ellensburg or Pendleton.” “The Turtles wanted the purses increased and wanted their own judges,” Morrison recalls. “Those were the main issues.” When Anderson and the Rodeo Board refused, there were “heated discussions,” the Turtles struck, and the ’37 rodeo had to be staged with regional, non-Turtle, contestants. The following year, Morrison remembers, the dispute was settled nationwide. Anderson and Ellensburg arena director Lou Richards welcomed the Turtles back, and relations with cowboys have remained good to this day.
Everett Bowman competed in his last rodeo in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1943. He retired to his Arizona ranch and work as a sheriff in Wickenburg, Arizona, where, according to rodeo historian Willard Porter, Bowman also “held dances, taught horsemanship, and talked rodeo to anyone who happened by.” On October 25, 1971, Everett Bowman, one of professional rodeo’s “founding fathers,” died in an airplane crash.