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From the Vault: Clyde Burk

by Matt Naber | Feb 28, 2019



Four-time World Champion Tie-down Roper Clyde Burk was at the top of his game in 1945 when a freak accident in the arena ended his life at the age of 31. 

The rodeo world was stunned by the loss, as were his five siblings. Burk had become head of the household at 18 when his father died, about three years after his mother passed away.

From that hard upbringing in Comanche, Okla., Burk began a rodeo career that took him to the pinnacle of his profession. He won world championships in tie-down roping in 1936, ’38, ’42 and ’44. In 1944, he was also the Cowboys’ Turtle Association Calf Roping Director.

Burk’s death was caused by a fall while hazing in the steer wrestling in Denver. The steer swerved in front of Burk’s horse, which stumbled and fell on Burk, who never regained consciousness.

The Oklahoma legislature passed a resolution marking the passing of one of the Sooner state’s most respected citizens. Burk was admired for his ability, but also for his integrity. An editorial in The Comanche News by Mrs. Earl Garey said, in part, “I never knew a man more contagiously likeable or more sincerely admired by men.”

Friends called the 5-foot-8, 155-pounder “Sagey” because he was “tough like the sagebrush.” 

The horse that carried Burk to his third and fourth world titles – he won the first two on Bartender – had a similar determination to its owner. Baldy had a fire-scarred left side and foreleg, the result of a fire that started when a cigarette landed in the hay in his trailer. But he was a dominant horse of the 1940s. 

Burk and Baldy were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979. 





 
 
 
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