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Remembering PRCA pioneer Dick Griffith

by Matt Naber | Jun 06, 2019

PRCA Media Coordinator

Dick Griffith was more than a four-time world champion bull rider (1939-42) and a ProRodeo Hall of Famer. This Oklahoma cowboy helped pave the way for professional rodeo while winning rodeos and performing daring trick riding stunts across the country. 

Griffith's trick riding career began at age 6, and three years later he performed for President Warren G. Harding and the U.S. Congress. He even rode his horse up the White House steps to shake hands with Harding.

He went on to become the 1934 International Trick and Fancy Rider champion. 

Born in Canton, Okla., in 1913, Griffith was the son of a rodeo cowboy and rancher. He rode bulls and bareback horses, and entered his first professional rodeo at age 17. At the age of 44 in 1957, he won a round of the bull riding at the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up.

Griffith was part of the famous Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show in 1930-31. He later perfected a stunt in which he did a shoulder stand on a running horse as it jumped over a convertible with the top down; in a 1956 letter to the PRCA, Griffith said, in part, that particular stunt “has never been duplicated by any horseman.”

In 1936, he participated in the first meetings of what later became the Cowboys’ Turtle Association (forerunner of the PRCA), and proudly held card No. 3. He was elected bull riding and contract acts director for the CTA, holding those positions until 1942.

Known for his graceful style, Griffith won the bull riding at Fort Worth in his first major rodeo and claimed titles at all the major venues – including four out of five years (1940-42, 1944) at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Griffith won many iconic rodeos, including Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days (1946), the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo (1939-40), California Rodeo Salinas (1941), and the Forth Worth (Texas) Stock Show & Rodeo (1946).

In 1963, Griffith opened a school in San Antonio, Texas, where he taught bull riding, bareback riding and trick riding. He trained a trick riding group that included his wife and daughters that performed into the 1970s. Griffith passed away in 1984, knowing he had thrilled rodeo fans for decades.

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