Clem McSpadden, 82, Voice of Pro Rodeo, Dies
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Published: July 14, 2008
Clem McSpadden, known as the voice of professional rodeo, his Oklahoma intonations a familiar presence through six decades as the sport grew from a rural pastime to a spectacle showcased in Las Vegas, died July 7 in Houston. Mr. McSpadden, also a former United States congressman and an Oklahoma state legislator, was 82.
John Clanton/The Oklahoman, via Associated Press
Clem McSpadden in 2007.
His death, at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, was announced by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Mr. McSpadden, who lived in Chelsea, Okla., was a past president of the association.
Mr. McSpadden was a grand-nephew of the humorist Will Rogers and grew up on a ranch in Oologah, Okla., that was owned by Mr. Rogers and managed by Mr. McSpadden’s father, Herb.
Mr. McSpadden displayed a dry wit in his own right when comparing his dual callings of rodeo and politics. Last January, when the post office in Chelsea, Okla., was renamed in his honor, Mr. McSpadden was quoted by The Tulsa World as observing how “there’s an amazing correlation between the two arenas in that there’s bull in each profession.”
Mr. McSpadden was competing as a professional rodeo performer while a student at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) when he filled in as an announcer at an Iowa rodeo in 1947. He earned $100 for four nights of announcing and $286 for winning the calf roping.
He went on to become general manager of the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City for almost two decades before it left for Las Vegas in the mid-1980s. He announced rodeos in 41 states and was the first American to be the voice of Canada’s prominent Calgary Stampede. He was a rodeo announcer for ABC-TV’s “Wide World of Sports” in the 1960s.
“There are very few people who you can say really made rodeo, and he is one of them,” Shawn Davis, general manager of the National Finals Rodeo, told the cowboys association.
Early in his announcing career, Mr. McSpadden turned to politics. A Democrat, he was an Oklahoma state senator from 1955 to 1972, served one term in Congress, then gave up his seat to seek his party’s gubernatorial nomination in 1974. He was beaten in a runoff primary by David Boren, who won the general election.
Mr. McSpadden operated a ranch near Chelsea, and he owned a lobbying firm in Oklahoma City. He is survived by his wife, Donna; his sons Bart and Paul; a daughter, Kay Lucas; and six grandchildren.
When Mr. McSpadden opened rodeos, he presided over a quiet moment, reciting the cowboy’s prayer he had written. It became a signature of his persona. It concludes:
“Help us, Lord, to live our lives in such a manner that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear and deep, that you, as our last Judge, will tell us that our entry fees are paid.”
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