Inducted in 1997
Five-time All-Around Champion cowboy Jim Shoulders was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he graduated from East Central High School in 1946. Shoulders remembers childhood visits to his grandparents’ farm, where he gained the expertise working cattle and riding horses that would soon take him down the rodeo road. He began rodeoing in 1943 in Oiltown, OK, and, during a career that spanned three decades won seven world titles in bullriding and four in bareback. These, combined with his five All-Arounds, earned Jim Shoulders an amazing record of sixteen all-around titles.
Shoulders’ Ellensburg career began when he won the bull riding in 1950. He won the bulls again in 1957 and in the same rodeo secured the Ellensburg All-Around title.
At the national level, Shoulders brought a new degree of notoriety to rodeo when Sports Illustrated featured him in late 50s photographic essay (this was the first-ever feature on a rodeo rider in that magazine). He also set a trend for the rodeo man-turned businessman pattern that was to follow him. From his ranch in Henryetta, Oklahoma, he diversified by giving up roughstock riding for rodeo production and stock contracting (the infamous Tornado was Shoulders’ bull). In addition, he worked at advertising and promotion, documentary film-making, and opened one of the world’s first “rodeo schools” to train a new generation of cowboys.
The Ellensburg Rodeo is fortunate to have hosted a cowboy who, in the words of late National Cowboy Hall of Fame historian Willard Porter, was a “top rough-string rider” as well as a “thoughtful professional and serious businessman who took the rodeo game a step further than the majority of contestants.”