All Inductees
Gene Autry

Gene Autry

Western Heritage

Orvon Gene Autry is considered by many to be the greatest western star of all time. He earned the designation of “America’s Favorite Cowboy”. He has five stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording, Movies, TV, Radio, and live performance for rodeo – not live theater.

Few people are aware of Autry’s longtime involvement in professional rodeo. In 1942 at the height of his screen popularity, he had a string of rodeo stock based in Ardmore, Oklahoma. A year later he became a partner in the World Championship Rodeo Company, which furnished livestock for many of the country’s major rodeos. In 1954, he acquired Montana’s top bucking string from the estate of Leo J. Cremer, Sr. and put Canadian saddle bronc riding champion Harry Knight in charge of the operation.

A merger with the World Championship Rodeo Company in 1956 made Autry the sole owner. He moved the entire company to a 24,000 acre ranch near Fowler, Colorado, with Knight as the working partner in the operation. For the next 12 years, they provided livestock for most of the major rodeos in Texas, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Boston, and Havana, Cuba. When the company was sold in 1968, both men continued to be active in rodeo. For his work, Gene was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Hall of Fame.

Autry was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969; inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1980; and inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1972. Autry owned Golden West Broadcasters, which owned and operated San Francisco AM radio station KSFO, Los Angeles television station KTLA channel 5, and Los Angeles AM radio station KMPC.

Gene was the first owner of the Los Angeles Angels American League baseball club – subsequently renamed the California Angels when the team was moved to Anaheim in 1966. Autry owned the team in its entirety from its first year of play – 1961 – until 1997 when he sold part of the franchise to Disney, who renamed the team the Anaheim Angels. Autry’s widow sold the rest of the team to Disney after his death the next year at the age of 91. He was Vice President of the American League until his death. Sadly, he never got to see his beloved Angels win the World Series. The team even retired Gene’s number, “26”.