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Standing up for rodeo cowboys

Sandhills cowboy organized better pay for rodeo riders

Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell steer wrestles at the Burwell Rodeo in the 1940s. 

In the mid-1930s, rodeo cowboys found themselves in the position of winning money at events, but struggling financially to get from one rodeo to the next.

They considered it too unjust, so in 1936 so a petition was circulated at the Chicago Stadium not to go to Boston Garden Rodeo where premier producer Colonel Johnson was holding his sixth annual World Championship Rodeo, unless demands of cowboys were met.

Dave Campbell was one of those who signed the petition, thus the beginnings of Cowboy Turtle Association. Campbell is being honored posthumously with induction into the Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Dave Campbell was born in Indiana, in 1906, moved to Bartlett, Nebraska in 1920 with his parents and younger brother, Bill. They lived 7 miles north and 4 miles west of Bartlett.

In 1935, he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he worked at the Old Boulderado Ranch training horses. While traveling the rodeo circuit, Dave Campbell would keep his horse, Laddie, at Melvin Mignery’s place.

At the second meeting of the Cowboy Turtle Association (CTA), the group discussed qualified judges, and Campbell’s name was added to the list to judge CTA (1937).

The next year at a meeting in Ogden, Utah, there discussion about judges not being qualified to judge and being paid off. Campbell defended himself against claims that he bought the cattle he dogged at the Chicago Rodeo, and CTA president Evert Bowman backed him up saying: “If all men are as good as Dave Campbell, we would be good men.”

From 1941-1944, Campbell was elected as spokesman for the Cowboy’s Turtle Association.

In 1942, he was second place winner in Steer Wrestling for World Champion Cowboys.

After the merger of Rodeo Cowboy Association (RCA) and Cowboy’s Turtle Association in 1945, the RCA meeting was held in Phoenix, Arizona. Dave was elected as Director and also named one of 34 spokesmen for RCA.

David Campbell passed away in 1967 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and at that time he was survived by his wife, Ann, brother Bill and several nephews and a niece.

Editor’s Note: The Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame is inducting 11 new honorees with a ceremony June 11 in Valentine, Nebraska. Each week through mid-June, we’ll meet the inductees.


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