All Inductees

Nelda Patton

Women Contestant

Born in DeQueen, Arkansas, Nelda Patton played a major role in rodeo in Texas and an even bigger role in barrel racing. She won her first barrel race at the age of eight in Teague, Texas, and from there a career and a passion were ignited.

Patton had an active life growing up both in and out of school. In addition to her activities in the rodeo arena, she found time to be voted Senior Class Favorite, FFA Sweetheart; served on the Student Council, and played saxophone and piano. She was also a majorette in her high school band and won several baton twirling competitions. She grew up around horses and learned to ride calves and rope with her cousins. She was the 1956 Rodeo Queen in Clement, Okla, and rode in several rodeo parades, winning additional awards.

In 1951, she married Billy Patton, and they raised two children, Billy Neil and Terri Lynn. All were active in the rodeo arena, and Terri Lynn kept rodeo in the family when she married world champion bull rider Don Gay.

Barrel racing was where Patton enjoyed most of her success and received her share of recognition. She was a 25-year member of the Texas Barrel Racing Association and served a number of years as president, vice president, and an association director. She won TBRA championships in 1963 and 1968 and was reserve champion six additional years. She finished in the top 17 throughout her career and usually riding a different horse each year. She was a gold card member of the Central Rodeo Association.

Patton was successful as a barrel horse trainer. Throughout her career, she trained top horses and was especially helpful in getting barrel racers started. In 1968, she won the barrel racing at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo and in 1986 had the Reserve Champion barrel horse at the American Paint Horse World Finals in Oklahoma City.

Patton was one of the women that helped take barrel racing to the next level, from just being something that looked good in the rodeo arena to a serious element. Innovations that she helped institute included staked barrels, electric eyes, and better payouts.

Western style and clothing was another talent that Patton developed. She designed and made western clothing for not only herself and her family but also developed a business selling to other barrel racers. She also made sequined western hats that were popular with barrel racers and cowgirls. She also wrote a monthly column on western fashion for Rodeo News.

Looking back on her career, Patton gives 90 percent of the credit for her success to her husband and her horses. “Whatever I have done was God-given… stay humble each day,” she said.