All Inductees

Bill Tatum

Empty Saddles

Bill Tatum was born April 2, 1929, in Junction, Texas. His dad started teaching him to rope at the age of five, first starting out on sheep and graduating to calves. Bill was always athletic and lettered all four years at Junction High School in basketball, track, and football. He was also an accomplished swimmer and once saved a man from drowning who outweighed him by 100 lbs.

In 1947, Bill won the Texas High School calf roping championship in Hallettsville. He roped and tied a calf in 10.4, which stood as the finals record until the 1970s. He attended college at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde and the University of Wyoming.

In 1952, Bill won Cheyenne, beating out 104 calf ropers. He won a saddle, buckle, boots, hat, and $5,800. Although a modest man, according to his family, Cheyenne was the win he was most proud of. Other wins during his career included Miles City, Mont., Huron, S.D., Douglas, Wyo., and twice at Billings, Mont. He roped in the Rodeo Cowboys Association from 1949 to 1958 and made his living roping.

During his rodeo career, Bill kept meticulous records of his rodeos. For each rodeo he entered, Bill kept a record of how much the fees were, how much money he won, percentage caught, percentage missed, prizes, and the number of contestants.

After he elected to stay closer to home and left the professional rodeo circuit, Bill continued to win in open ropings. He won Gatesville four times dating from 1959 to 1965 and collected a trophy saddle for his 1962 win. Bill worked more events on the open rodeo circuit including tie-down team roping and steer roping, in addition to the calf roping.

In 1968, he teamed up with Claude Lovejoy to win the tie-down team roping. With a time of 8.5 seconds, they beat out 101 teams. Also in 1968, Bill managed to win two buckles in one day on a Fourth of July run. He won Charlotte and Eagle Pass, Texas, with one rodeo being held in the morning and the other that night.

Bill married his wife, Sandra, in 1967. After he left the professional rodeo circuit, Bill worked as an electrician and in 1970 became a full-time farrier and rancher. He was also known as an outstanding horse trainer.

Bill was known for his honesty and, as one friend said, “You could roll dice over the phone with him.” He was a true cowboy who always wore boots and did not own a pair of shoes. He also always had his hat on, except when he sat down to eat.

Roping was his passion, and he roped his entire life, although he didn’t compete as much when he got older. In 1986, he won his last belt buckle at the Twin Falls Arena in Belton. It was an all-around buckle for heading, heeling, goat tying, goat roping, and calf roping. He did not compete much after 1986, and when his horse died in 1987, he said it was time to quit. He did continue to rope around the ranch when needed.

A cowboy to the end, Bill was still roping at the age of 77. He passed away January 9, 2007, leaving a world of friends, a proud family, and cherished memories for all.