Inducted in 2001
Larry Mahan is a 2001 Inductee to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame. Mahan revolutionized the rodeo world on his way to winning six PRCA World All-Around Championships (’66, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, ‘73) and two World Bull Riding Championships (’65, ’67). Larry Mahan combined athleticism, grit, and a keen business sense to move 1960s rodeo cowboys into the world of modern American professional athletes. Larry Mahan was born in 1943 in Brooks, a town adjacent to Salem, Oregon. When he was not at work sacking groceries after school, young Mahan was at the local fairgrounds, earning his spurs in youth calf roping clubs. He entered his first junior rodeo in Canby, Oregon, in 1957. Mahan graduated from high school in Arizona, winning the 1962 state high school rodeo All-Around buckle. Back in Oregon in 1963, he began his professional career tutored by top Oregon hands Sterling Green and Bob Cook. In his subsequent sixteen-year PRCA career, Mahan grossed an unprecedented $506,441. His record of six World All-Around titles stood twenty-five years. In December, 2001, roughstock champion Ty Murray broke Larry’s record (and that of Tom Ferguson, ERHOF ‘97) when he won a seventh World All-Around Cowboy title. Trevor Brazile has since surpassed them both. Larry Mahan used scientific method–writing, filing, and restudying copious notes on the hundreds of broncs and bulls that he rode so well. He called rodeo a “sport” and referred to himself as a “professional athlete.” He flew to competitions in his own Cessna 310 airplane (in Ellensburg he circled the rodeo arena before landing at Bowers Field). Newsweek Magazine dubbed him the “Cowboy in the Gray Flannel Suit”! Moreover, Larry Mahan dramatically changed the rodeo profession by diversifying his own career into promotions and advertising, a western clothing line, publications, and his own rodeo schools and seminars. Throughout all of this success, Mahan retained the humility and gentlemanly demeanor befitting a true champion. One rodeo historian wrote: “Sports writers have been heard to remark that rodeo hands as a whole are the most cooperative and own less trace of the prima donna than any other group of athletes. The affable and courteous Mahan surely must stand at the head of the line.” In Ellensburg, Larry Mahan was in the money in the broncs and bulls for more than a decade. The one ride Ellensburg fans will never forget, however, was one in which Larry did not triumph. In 1971, Larry Mahan hung-up and wrecked on the bronc “Paper Doll,” sustaining injuries that ended his quest (that year) for a sixth World All-Around title. As Mahan was dragged around the arena (for what “seemed like ten minutes” according to one local) and attended to by medical professionals, legendary rodeo announcer George Prescott (ERHOF ’98) kept the shocked audience accurately apprised of the situation. At last, Mahan was loaded into an ambulance and whisked out of the arena. “It was an unforgettable day,” Prescott remembers. Showing his grit, Mahan later recovered from his Ellensburg injuries, re-trained, and won his sixth All-Around in 1973. Larry Mahan’s statistics exemplify his prowess in the Ellensburg Rodeo arena from 1965-1974: Larry won the bulls (‘65), bareback broncs (’74), two Ellensburg All-Around buckles (‘67 and ’70), and regularly finished in the day-money. Mahan thus ranks alongside ERHOF Inductees Pete Knight, Bill Linderman, Casey Tibbs, and Deb Copenhaver as one of the premier bronc riders to have ever competed in the Ellensburg Rodeo.