All Inductees

J. T. "Whiz" Whisenhunt

Empty Saddles

Once in every decade or so, there is a man born who may not gain great wealth or fame, but will always be in the hearts of all the people that he touched. J.T. Whisenhunt was such a man. Known from coast to coast and border to border as “Whiz,” he went on to rodeo and make friends wherever he went. Whiz had the personality that let him get along with people from all walks of life. He started the rodeo trail at a very early age and was schooled by some of the champions of the late forties and early fifties.

J.T. “Whiz” Whisenhunt was born at his parents’ home on May 11, in Fannin County, Texas, in 1927, north of Bonham, along the Red River. As a kid, he used to ride his granddad’s mare, riding and roping all the farm stock. Although he grew up on a farm, he won several hundred dollars during a ride in Arkansas when he was about 16 years old, and after that, you couldn’t keep him on the farm.

He took off making the rodeo circuits and rarely made it back home again. Whiz went on to ride bareback, rope, and bulldog. He participated in rodeos in El Paso, Denver, Fort Worth, Baton Rouge, Tucson, San Antonio, Phoenix, Calgary, Cheyenne, Salt Lake, Salinas, Pendleton, Madison Square Garden, San Francisco, and many others.

It wasn’t until Whiz began wintering with Amye Gamblin, Todd Whatley, and Charlie Colbert that he learned how to win, because they owned some of the best roping and dogging horses in the business. These are the events that most cowboys nowadays can recall Whiz being proficient in. Whiz turned in some outstanding rodeo performances too. One year, he set a world record for throwing a steer in three seconds at Baton Rouge. The record didn’t stand long, however, as Todd Whatley, from Oklahoma, broke Whiz’s time. Whiz continued to rodeo into the 1960s, but the last few years he mainly roped steers.

Whiz was a man who lived life to its fullest, and sometimes too much for his own good. He saw humor in every situation. Money never meant much to Whiz; it was useful only to spend on his friends and the one vice he had, buying the most expensive hats he could find. Like many who rodeo, Whiz was a fatalist and once remarked that he “had lived it all” and had no regrets. Still, there are many who miss him and the high, good humor he provoked whenever he came around.

The years have dimmed the memories of most of his rodeo feats, but his wit and humor will live forever. It would take a good-sized library to hold all the funny sayings and stories that he lived if they had been committed to paper. Whiz died at this home in Houston in 1972, only 45 years old but is said to have packed enough activities to fill several ordinary lifetimes. At the time of his death, Whiz was survived by his brothers and sister, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. David Whisenhunt, of Bonham, and a two-year-old daughter, Holly. Among those attending his funeral were many world champion rodeo cowboys and cowgirls from every event.