Building a Legacy
In the last 16 years, the Wiley Hicks Jr. Memorial Roping has made more than $670,000 and, for the last 16 years, James P. Hicks has given it all away. 

Roping for a Cause

In the last 16 years, the Wiley Hicks Jr. Memorial Roping has made more than $670,000 and, for the last 16 years, James P. Hicks has given it all away. 

“This is the 16th annual,” Hicks said of the Amarillo, Texas, roping that will take place March 18–19 this year, “and my goal at the 20th-anniversary roping is to give away $1 million.”

In 2008, the Wiley Hicks Jr. Memorial started at the suggestion of a non-profit after the passing of James Hicks’ father.

“He was my very dear friend,” Hicks said of his dad. “He and I, we were more like brothers than we were father and son. We ran around together. We went to bars together. We rode motorcycles together. We jackpotted together. We were buddies all my life.”

Trevor Brazile won the 2022 Badlands heading futurity aboard Big Time Movie Star “Queen.” Photo courtesy Badlands Bits and Spurs Futurity.

After the first event, Hicks remembers maybe $12,000 were made.

“They weren’t really having a quality roping,” Hicks said. “So, I decided I would do it myself. And, of course, I talked to Denny (I’ve always relied strongly on Mr. Gentry’s advice), and I put on a roping that I knew my dad would be proud of. It’s a really, really good roping.”

The roping—now an Ariat WSTR Qualifier—benefits Amarillo’s The Hope and Healing Place.

“At the end of the year, we leave $1,000 in the account,” Hicks said, who co-sponsors the #12.5 Add-On with his wife of 33 years, Carol. “We give all the money to charity. We give the lion’s share of it to The Hope and Healing Place, which is a grief counseling center here in Amarillo that’s very near and dear to our heart.”

Retirement (Sort Of)

In addition to riding motorcycles and roping, Hicks developed a strong construction skillset under the guidance of his father, which has also proven to be a boon to the Amarillo community.

“I worked in the construction industry all my life,” Hicks said. “I went to work for [my dad] when I was 14 years old, and I went to Texas Tech and received a degree in Construction Engineering. I went back to work for my dad in ’83, to be exact, and in ’93 I purchased the company from him and owned and operated it until 2019. I had the opportunity to sell it and retire, and I was going to rope and had all these dreams about traveling and doing all this stuff I thought I was going to do.” 

After the sale of Wiley Hicks Jr. Inc, the Hicks did enjoy retirement life for about two years.

“There was a break in there, and we did get to travel,” Hicks posited. “We’ve got two grandkids here and two that live in Dallas, so we got to go see them and we got to go to Mexico and to Florida and we traveled around, which we always have, and we enjoyed getting to rope.”

Then, Hicks, who specialized in school construction but built everything from car dealerships to banks and grocery stores, was called on to offer consult on a project of a lifetime.

“I was contacted by a group named Producers Owned Beef that’s building a producer-owned beef packing plant here in Amarillo. It’s a 725,000-square-foot, 3,000-head-a-day packing plant, and they needed a construction consultant. So, since that time, I’ve become the construction consultant on this beef plant that will break ground on in March.”

The facility, which will cost nearly $6 million for the building alone, is projecting a 1,500-person payroll, a yearly processing count of 702,000, and producers fall into the ownership fold. It will be the first large beef plant built since the 1990s and, so far, the project has earned public and private support alike.

“It’ll have a huge impact on the producers in our area,” Hicks said. “To harvest a beef, you’ll have to own a share, so it’s 100% producer-owned. It’s very good for the Texas Panhandle and for Texas beef producers.”

It’s also been an unexpected and welcome opportunity for Hicks.

“We did a ton of work, actually when I was in high school and had my tools on, at packing plants doing repairs,” Hicks said. “And to be able to watch one be designed from the ground up, it’s been an amazing experience for me. 

“The maximum allowable chain speed is how you do the design of the plant,” Hicks revealed when asked which aspect of the build he found most intriguing. “The construction is not simple construction. It’s heavy, heavy industrial construction. There’s not a lot of conversation about picking colors.”

Between the project breaking ground in early March and the roping taking place days later, Hicks is rather busy for being retired. But the work suits him well.

“I’m not good if I don’t have anything to do; I’ll get myself in trouble,” Hicks quipped. “I didn’t get to heel full-time for very long, but I do still get to rope and it’s a whole different thing than owning the company and operating it. It piques my interest and lets me do kind of what I want to.”

Trevor Brazile won the 2022 Badlands heading futurity aboard Big Time Movie Star “Queen.” Photo courtesy Badlands Bits and Spurs Futurity.

A Family Affair

Among the list of things James P. Hicks wants to do is to win a Wiley Hicks Jr. Memorial Roping trophy saddle.

“My goal right now is to be able to rope every day until my dad’s roping. I’ve won the pre-roping, [and] I’ve placed in the roping several times, but I’ve never won one of the saddles. We give saddles in all five of the main World Series ropings and, I’ve won Gist buckles, but I’ve never won one of those saddles and I’d love to have one in my trophy room.”

Hicks takes great pride in the opportunity to honor his father through roping, but the real joy is found in sharing the event with his wife and daughters.

“My wife, Carol, she supported me through ropings, through jackpots, through rodeoing, through putting these ropings on. She runs the raffle table along with my three daughters. They’re fully supportive. My oldest daughter lives in Dallas, and she and her family fly in for the roping with my two granddaughters just to be a part of it. To be able to honor my dad is huge, and to have the people closest to me with me is the best part of all of it.”

Related Articles
Bustamante Wins Wiley Hicks Jr. Memorial and ADVO Roping Horse Trailer