Inducted in 1999
The Driver Family members are 1999 Inductees to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame in the Pioneer Rodeo Family Category. The Drivers’ roots in Kittitas Valley rodeo history run deep, and they come with a Texas accent. Ray (1900-1978) and Scott Driver were sons of James Harvey and Adora Gray Driver, who farmed and ranched in Dickens County, Texas. In 1917, however, the Driver brothers grew restless with life in Texas, and they began to work their way to the Northwest. Scott spent a stint in Jerome Idaho.
By 1922, both Ray and Scott Driver had moved to Ellensburg, to work on the railroad. Scott relocated and both Driver brothers found the semi-arid foothills of eastern Washington state much to their liking. Ray returned to ranching, working for the Cooke family; both eventually worked in the logging business, where they established a solid reputation and achieved success.
It was Ray’s employment at the Cooke ranch that brought him into the Ellensburg Rodeo. George B Cooke (ERHOF ’98) helped in planning the first Ellensburg Rodeo in 1923. Alongside many other area ranchers, the Cookes supplied men, stock, and equipment for building the rodeo grounds. Ray, Scott, and the Cooke cowboys joined five hundred other local volunteers to work on the grounds. In the 1923 rodeo, both Ray and Scott entered the Kittitas County Bronc-riding competition, an event limited to local contestants. The following year Ray won third place honors, and continued to compete.
Meanwhile, a new generation of Driver boys and girls entered the world of rodeo. Ray and Una’s children were Jack, Doris, James (“Bob,”), Donna, and Darlene. Donna was voted Apple Blossom Princess in 1948 and Ellensburg Rodeo Princess in 1949. She later married renowned local cowboy Larry Wyatt (ERHOF ’97) and became his partner in their rodeo stock contracting firm (the Wyatts contracted Canadian pro rodeo venues and the 1971 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City).
Scott and Iva had three sons. Herbert (“Herb”) became a western clothier at his Horsemen’s Center store. Sons Fred Louis (“Lo,” 1909-1999) and Arthur (“Art”) Driver also earned much respect in Ellensburg Rodeo circles. Art was a State Track Relay Champ and football star at Ellensburg High School and went to college on an athletic scholarship. Art served heroically in the WWII Army Air Corps. His B17 went down over Europe and he spent 14 months as a prisoner of war. He served on the Rodeo Board for many years, including fourteen years as Arena Director. He was also Ellensburg Rodeo Posse Captain in 1952 and won the coveted Kittitas County Calf Roping titles in 1950 and 1954. Art Driver and his brother Lo developed the “Dinner Bell Handicap, which is still a popular portion of the Ellensburg Rodeo program.
“He was Mr. Rodeo here,” recalls Rodeo Board Member and neighbor Joel Smith. Local Harvey Vaughan notes Driver “knew what he wanted and what was right and easy to work with…He was an institution.” He had two sons, Steve and Doug.
Like his younger brother, Lo Driver was equally dedicated to the Ellensburg Rodeo as an organizer, participant, and competitor. He served on the Ellensburg Rodeo Board for an impressive 33 years, and was its President in 1959 and 1960. For decades, he and his wife Emily were “ambassadors” for the rodeo, and their daughters Pam and Nancy rode in the Friday night shows and the parade. Nancy served as Queen of the Ellensburg Rodeo in 1967. Like his father and Uncle Ray, Lo Driver built a successful career in the logging business; while Emily managed the family’s Main Street diner, next to their home.
For six decades, Lo Driver rode in Ellensburg Rodeo Posse, serving stints as Captain 1947, 1965 and 1966. A 1950s Daily Record photograph shows Driver at the Yakima Airport astride his rearing pinto horse, delivering a telegram inviting President Truman to the Ellensburg Rodeo. And of course, Lo Driver was a cow cutting champion. He worked the rodeo cow cutting exhibition for 25 years, most of it with his beloved horse Yankee, whom Lo worked without a bridle.
Today, the Driver family members carry on the Drivers’ traditions and abiding love of the Ellensburg Rodeo.