The Legend of a Black Cowboy

Words by: Brittany Lopez
Photography by: Fred Agho


For some, participating in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a yearly tradition, but for individuals like founder Myrtis Dightman Sr., it's a lifestyle. Myrtis was a visionary who fought for inclusivity within the rodeo community. Alongside fellow pioneers James Francis and Alfred Pointdexter, Myrtis established an all-black trail riding team, beginning the rich legacy of the Prairie View Trail Riders. They challenged the norms and barriers that had long restricted African Americans from fully engaging in such events. Their collective efforts paved the way for greater diversity within the rodeo scene, not only for men but also for women, and served as a powerful symbol of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

In 1966, Dightman made history as the first black cowboy to qualify for the Professional Rodeo Association National Finals, achieving this milestone seven times between 1966 and 1972. His notable career included feats such as finishing third in the 1967-1968 PRCA World Standings, winning the Calgary Stampede in 1971, and securing victory in the bull riding competition at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

After retiring from the sport, he was inducted into several prestigious Hall of Fames, including the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was honored with induction into the Professional Bull Rider’s Ring of Honor. To commemorate his achievements, a bronze statue of Dightman stands strong in Crockett, Texas, where an annual rodeo is held in his honor.

Myrtis' legacy continues to resonate with five generations, fostering growth for women and paving the way for their empowerment in the rodeo community. Despite the predominance of men in the equestrian realm and the challenge of creating space for black women, Adia, his granddaughter, had an upbringing infused with the empowering presence of women who deftly handled reins, saddles, and bridles with grace and skill. "Due to his legacy, I have grown with a tradition to look forward to in the future, with my nephew continuing to ride, and including my daughter when she's old enough," she remarked.

Being incredibly candid and open about her relationship with the riding culture, Adia expressed that she doesn't consider herself a "true rider" in the traditional sense, despite being closely connected to her family's legacy. While she does attend campouts occasionally, she is hesitant to portray herself as deeply immersed in the culture, fearing it might give the wrong impression. Despite her close bond with her father and grandfather, Adia revealed that during her time in Atlanta for college, she didn't actively participate in the yearly campouts or rides. It wasn't until around 2019 that she began to reconnect with the rodeo culture, gradually reintegrating into the community and regaining a much-lost appreciation for it.

In light of Adia's journey and her recent reacquaintance with the rodeo culture, it's fitting to have her play a significant role in discussions about her family's legacy. While she may not fit the conventional image of a seasoned rider, her unique perspective and experiences add depth to the narrative, highlighting the multifaceted nature of tradition and heritage within the Prairie View Trail Riders community.

As a woman, Adia understands the values and pride the other ladies take with their involvement in the trail rides. "I enjoy the entire experience of Trail Ride and it's something I've always wanted to do. I've done it for 30 years. You either love it or hate it. I love the educational part of teaching the children agriculture, I love the gathering of friends, and I love the history. It's not a woman or black experience; it's a cultural experience," emphasizes Lenice Brown, Treasurer of The Prairie View Trail Ride Association.

Shop the PG Rodeo Archive Capsule! Proceeds of the collection will be donated to the Dightman family. Stay tuned to @premiumgoodshtx, the trail continues on Feb 29th.

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