Clem McSpadden, a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and an immensely popular political figure in his native Oklahoma, died at 10:51 p.m. July 7 at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after a lengthy struggle with cancer.
McSpadden, of Chelsea, Okla., was general manager of the National Finals Rodeo for 18 years in Oklahoma City (1967-84), a past president of the Rodeo Cowboys Association and one of the sport’s legendary announcers for more than half a century. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1990.
“The entire Western world has lost a friend with the passing of Clem McSpadden,” said Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Chairman of the Board Keith Martin. “I’ve known Clem all my life, and no one knew rodeo better or loved it more than he did. This is a sad day for our sport, but the legacy of Clem McSpadden will live on forever.”
As an announcer, McSpadden worked the National Finals Steer Roping (NFSR) a record 27 times from 1963 to 2000. He announced rodeos in 41 states, Mexico and Canada, where he became the first American to serve as the voice of the Calagary Stampede and the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
McSpadden conducted the opening for the “Command Performance” Rodeo for President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and was the American announcer chosen for the U.S. versus Canada Rodeo during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary.
In 1986, McSpadden was named PRCA Announcer of the Year and Cowboy Hall of Fame Man of the Year.
“Clem was the godfather of all of ’em,” said fellow ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Roy Cooper. “He was the voice of rodeo. He loved roping, and he saw them all-from Toots Mansfield, Jim Bob Altizer and Dean Oliver to Joe Beaver, Fred Whitfield and Cody Ohl. Clem McSpadden has done more for our sport than any other individual. He always worked hard, and he always made a difference in everything he did. Clem was a man who got things done. He was a good friend to all cowboys, and was a real blessing in my life. Now Clem’s up there where the great ones roam, with Sonny Davis, Freckles Brown and Jim Shoulders.”
A tribute to McSpadden was already being discussed for the 50th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Dec. 4-13 in Las Vegas, and WNFR general manager Shawn Davis is going ahead with plans for honoring a man Davis describes as “an icon in our sport.”
“This is definitely a loss,” Davis said. “There are very few people who you can say really made rodeo, and he is one of them. The NFR is the most stable thing in rodeo, and he played a very instrumental role in getting the NFR up to that next plateau, carrying the sport with it.”
A graduate of Oklahoma State University, McSpadden served in the U.S. Navy (1944-46) before launching himself into the dual careers of politician and rodeo announcer. He was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 1954 and served until 1972, twice being elected president pro tempore; he was the first to serve consecutive terms.
In 1972, McSpadden was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and became the first freshman to serve on the prestigious Rules Committee before launching an unsuccessful campaign for the governorship of Oklahoma, losing to David Boren.
The Chelsea post office was named in McSpadden’s honor in January.
“Clem McSpadden was a cherished mentor and adviser to me and so many other elected leaders across Oklahoma,” U.S. Representative Dan Boren (D-Okla.) told the Tulsa World. “He was a state legislator, U.S. congressman, businessman, rancher, long-time rodeo announcer and always remained a devoted public servant to his community, state and country.”
A moment of silence for McSpadden was observed July 8 on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
McSpadden is survived by his wife, Donna, his daughter, Kay and his sons, Bart and Paul.