2014 Hall of Fame Inductee
Nathan Jean Whitaker Sanders, affectionately known around the Rodeo and Trail
Ride circuit to all as "Mama Sugar" was born June 6, 1939 to the
late Lillie Mae Glenn and Reverend Ellis Haddie Whitaker. She grew up in the
Upshaw/County Line Community in Douglas, Texas. She was raised by her Uncle
Deffie Whitaker and Aunt Vada Yabrough who taught her everything about the country
life. After graduating from C.L. Simmon High School in Cushing, Texas she moved
to Nacogdoches, Texas. There she worked at Mrs. Grant"s Boarding House
where she was taught how to cook. At the age of 19 she met and married Lonnie
Earl Sanders and moved to Houston, Texas to get away from the country life.
She gave birth to five daughters and soon found herself raising them alone in
the big city. After several years of struggling in 1978 she met Myrtis Dightman,
the first African American inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He introduced
the girls to rodeoing at the Diamond L. Ranch where they were trained to compete
by Mark Hatfield and Ted Hightower. This put her back in the country life style
that she left behind.
In the early 80"s Mama Sugar found herself raising another daughter.
She then met Ron "Sugar" Mitchell who owned the Sugar Shack Disco
Club in Arcola, Texas. From 1981 to 1988 the Sugar Shack became a hangout for
African American Cowboys and other cultures. She conducted country western dance
classes and introduced many African Americans in Houston and surrounding areas
to country western dancing. In 1981 she founded The Sugar Shack Trailblazers
with 2 men and 6 women. They became registered under Southwestern Trail Riders
Association as a family oriented group. Mama Sugar became one of our top Black
History Educators of the Western Culture. Before her sickness you could find
Mama Sugar extremely busy during the month of February giving lectures about
the western culture throughout the Houston and Fort Bend Independent School
Districts. At the age of 75 she continues to dedicate her time and energies
during the year volunteering for activities that include entertainment of youth
and senior citizens. She also helps Mollie Stevenson, owner of the American
Cowboy Museum, with many Black Heritage projects year-round.
Mama Sugar has received many outstanding honors and awards throughout the community
as well as resolutions from the State of Texas and Fort Bend County as being
Outstanding Community Leader. These honors include recognition as "A Living
Legend" from the Black Heritage Committee of the Houston Livestock Show
and Rodeo in 1998 and the Black Professional Cowboys and Cowgirls Association
in 2002. She received an award in 1995 as being one of Houston"s Top Twenty
Women of Distinction. She"s the mother of the Southwestern Trail Riders
Association where she has taught many how to survive on a little of nothing,
how to keep warm around a camp fire and how good a meal can be from an open
fire. Her great cooking has lead to an article in the June 2006 issue of Gourmet
Magazine where she receives outstanding recognition about her Juneteenth Celebration
and showcases her recipes. One of her most recent and greatest accomplishment
in 2013 was being an Honoree at Foodways Texas Barbecue Symposium for her famous
country style cooking and outstanding recipes. There she received a Lifetime
Achievement Award and great recognition from some of Texas finest restaurant
owners for her cooking skills. Her recipes can be found in the local libraries
in the Texas Cooking Cook Books. Mama Sugar believes that in order to be a GREAT
cook your first ingredient is LOVE. If you are not preparing to cook with LOVE
then you are not preparing to cook a GREAT meal.
Mama Sugar is a beautiful Black God fearing woman who loves her family and friends. She continues to mentor, lead and encourage everyone to do their best. Her induction into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum is a great honor to everyone. She is very deserving of this honor and her great works, accomplishments and outstanding efforts to keep the western heritage alive can be remembered by all.
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