1956 RCA WORLD CHAMPION CALF ROPER, many times referred to as the “Mighty Mite” of rodeo’s calf ropers. True grit, perseverance in practice, athletic hustle and speed down the rope along with determination to win were his trademarks. RAY WHARTON always wanted victory and when he got a hold on a calf it usually went down like a bolt of lightning.
Born in Kerrville, to Mr. and Mrs. Lee Wharton on Feb. 17,1920, Ray grew up between Kerrville and Bandera on his father’s ranching interests. Starting with a loop on anything that moved, by age 7 he had become extremely accurate. A bad fall resulted in a severe bruise to his right arm that began an 8-year battle with a crippling bone disease. Rays’ determination and heart drove him to continue sports and exercise eventually regaining the use of his arm. HE discovered he had not lost his great talent with the rope and practiced roping while working on the Woodward Ranch in Sabinal and the Tom East Ranch in Hebbronville. Hour after hour he worked toward a single goal. Ray never roped amateur or went to a roping school. He turned professional in the early 1940’s and won his first big rodeo during a race meet in Eagle Pass. This launched a roping career that eventually did lead to the World’s Championship.
Ray turned his winnings into land. He followed the circuit several more years, and retired to his ranch in Bandra. He is married to the former Miss Ada Ender of Bandera.
The first horse Ray used seriously was a sorrel called Bones, then Rusty, then Cindy and finally Brownie also called Scrap Iron. Ray has continued interest in good horses and he trains some of the top performing horses in the country. He has always been a friend to young cowboys and has been a helping hand to many of the young ropers and rodeo performers along the way.
October 23, 1994 he was inducted into the NATIONAL COWBOY HALL OF FAME in Oklahoma City. Good friend Randy Moore introduced Ray with these very eloquent words: “The definition of the words hustle, try and tenacity are all defined the same way- Ray Wharton, Bandera, Texas…” He won or placed at every major rodeo in the United States, a career roper always focused on winning. “In Teddy Roosevelt’s writing ‘Dare Gently’, he says, “The credit belongs to the man actually in the arena” he not only referred to the rodeo arena, but the arena of life as well. Ray’s characteristics would also make him outstanding in life’s arena. Ray has two other ingredients as strong, or stronger than his hustle-unselfish generosity to help his friends and his genuine, warm and loving personality. Ray paid as he went, or in advance, as though he was destined to be a champion and he would help his friends on the way up. Yes, if there was a Hall of Fame for outstanding people in the arena of life, Ray would be a shoo-in.”
Ray’s acceptance speech, as Clem McSpadden, the master of ceremonies, so aptly put, was “Folks, his speech was just like he always roped- it was done in 10 seconds flat!” The crowd heartily acknowledged their approval and Ray Wharton’s name was forever etched in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.