Inducted in 1997
South Dakotan Bill McMacken dominated bronc riding and bulldogging competitions during the 1935-45 decade of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Born in Pierre and residing in Trail City, South Dakota, Bill grew up on his father’s cattle ranch surrounded by seven older brothers and sisters and a lifestyle that revolved around cowboying and rodeo. Bill was only fourteen years-old when he hit the rodeo road with his older brothers Joe, Fritz, and Bud McMacken. As he matured, dark and handsome McMacken was described by rodeo historian Cliff Westermeier as the “epitome” of a rodeo cowboy, with the “look, personality, and the ability of the ideal Western character.”
McMacken exhibited the skill and versatility of early rodeo men who “worked both sides of the arena”–excelling at both timed and roughstock events.
He briefly held the world’s record in steer wrestling in 1935. His 9.8 second 1941 Pendleton run broke his former arena record (10.3) and stood for a decade. In roughstock events he was the second cowboy (after Pete Knight) to ride the rank, infamous bronc Five Minutes to Midnight. He twice (‘37 and ‘39) won Pendleton’s All-Around title and the prestigious $5000 Sam Jackson Trophy. He was a founding member of the Cowboy Turtles (a predecessor to the RCA and PRCA). In a 1940s interview with Westermeier, McMacken reminisced that one of his career highlights was his membership on the 1939 American Rodeo Team touring Australia.
McMacken’s strong showing in the bronc riding and bulldogging events led to three Ellensburg All-Around championships in ‘36, ‘37, and ‘39. He may have also won the All-Around in ‘38, but all records from that rodeo were destroyed in the Antler’s Hotel fire. He won the saddle bronc buckles in Ellensburg in ‘36 and ‘37. Although World War II caused cancellation of several Ellensburg rodeos, Bill McMacken returned to Ellensburg to once again capture the All-Around title in 1945. McMacken was thus a hard-working, consistent, and highly talented rodeo cowboy. His four Ellensburg All-Around titles constitute an Ellensburg Rodeo arena record bested only by Tom Ferguson’s six All-Arounds three decades later.