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2006 Hall of Fame Inductee
George Fletcher

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2006 Hall of Fame Inductee

George Fletcher

George Fletcher was born in 1890 in St. Mary’s, Kansas. Fletcher came west on the old Oregon Trail from Missouri with his family at the turn of the 20th century, nearly 30 years after the last pioneers used the Oregon Trail. The Fletcher family settled in a small western town of Pendleton, Oregon.

Fletcher built friendships and relationships among the local American Indians on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon. The tribes adopted Fletcher as one of their own. He learned about the tribes’ culture and language, and most importantly their horsemanship, all of which the federal government did not want the Indians to practice on the reservation, because the government believed the Indians should be farmers and Christians to survive in today’s world.

Fletcher entered his first rodeo event at a Fourth of July Celebration in Pendleton, Oregon, which he placed second in the bronco busting contest. This was to be the initial beginnings of what would become the Pendleton Round-Up in 1910.

In 1911, Fletcher made the Saddle Bronc Finals at the Pendleton Round-Up, which became known as the controversial finals and was the first time that Jackson Sundown, a Native American, John Spain, a European American, and George Fletcher, an African American, competed for a World Title in rodeo.

Sundown was the first to ride in the finals and his bucking horse charged into the one of the Round-Up judge’s horses and he tumbled from the horse. Sundown was not awarded a re-ride because of the interference with the judge’s horse. John Spain rode second and he made a good ride, but there was a claim of a foul, that he had touched the horse with his free hand. The Round-Up judges scored his ride despite the protest from the crowd of a foul.

Fletcher was the last to compete. He made an outstanding ride and brought the cheering crowd to its feet, but the judges requested another horse for Fletcher. The crowd grew restless as Fletcher mounted his second horse for the finals. The horse bucked wildly with Fletcher before the grandstands and the crowd roared its approval. Within a few minutes after Fletcher’s ride the Round-Up judges announced, “Spain first, Fletcher second, and Sundown third.”

A dissatisfied Sheriff Til Taylor took Fletcher’s hat, tore it into pieces, and sold the pieces to the protesting crowd of thousands. The Sheriff awarded the money to Fletcher, as their Champion, the People’s Champion, and wished for him to have a championship saddle like the one awarded to John Spain.

Fletcher served in World War I, where he was wounded and ended his career in rodeo. He worked as a ranch cowboy until his death in 1973.

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