OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Since 1955, the Rodeo Historical Society in Oklahoma City, Okla. has honored the cowboy way of life by inducting into the Rodeo Hall of Fame those individuals who paved the way for the modern-day sport of rodeo.
A local cowboy was just so honored this past weekend when James “Russ” Madison Jr., 1879-1956, was posthumously inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in recognition of his early major contributions to the sport of rodeo. His granddaughter, Mavis Madison, of Nemo, represented the family at the induction ceremony by accepting an award at a gala held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City on Sept. 22.
Russ Madison was born in Iowa in 1879, and at the age of 7 he and his family moved to South Dakota. He began working at the Circle Bar Ranch in Creston, S.D., at the age of 12. Three short years later he was breaking horses for the U.S. Army and at the age of 17 he broke 100 head of horses for the U.B.I. Ranch near Rapid City.
In 1899, he staged the first public saddle bronc exhibition on the streets of downtown Rapid City.
“A man who was there bet him that he couldn't hold a silver dollar between his boot and the stirrup without losing it before the end of the ride,” Mavis said. “He took the bet and the horse bucked so hard and wild that it went right through the front window of Haynes Clothing store, and right back out. And believe it or not, through the whole ride, he never lost that silver dollar.”
In the early 1900s, he toured the nation with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.
1917 was the beginning of his 30-year career as a rodeo stock contractor and promoter. He was credited with introducing Brahma bulls to South Dakota. He trailed his stock, including broncs, bulls and steers to rodeos in South Dakota and neighboring states.
During that time, he established the Diamond S Ranch, near Nemo, and ran a logging and sawmill operation that supplied materials for the Canyon Lake Dam Project and the Pennington County Courthouse.
Madison's son, Gene, took over the stock contracting company in 1946 until he sold it in 1962. Their rough stock performed at the first National Finals Rodeo held at Dallas, Texas, in 1959.
Madison's son, Stanley, and his wife, Marilyn, took over the operation of the ranch and today the Historic Madison Ranch is still under the watch of Madison's descendants. His granddaughter, Mavis Madison, has recently turned the sprawling ranch house into a bed and breakfast retreat.
The first rodeo in South Dakota was held at the Diamond S Ranch. Madison was a major promoter of the annual rodeos in Belle Fourche, Deadwood and Rapid City, that continue to this day. He joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association, in 1946.
Russ Madison died in 1956, at the age of 77.
Other 2012 Rodeo Hall of Fame inductees include:
Bill McMacken, 1913-1967, S.D.; Pete Fredericks, N.D.; Brad Gjermundson, N.D.; Emma “Pee Wee” Burge, 1919-2011; Sammy Thurman Brackenbury; Jim Houston; Dave Appleton- '88 World Champ All-Around Cowboy; Bill Smith- Ben Johnson Memorial Award and Vicki Adams- Tad Lucas Memorial Award.
Madison was also inducted into the South Dakota Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame, in 1986. Rodeo is the official sport of South Dakota.
The complete Madison collection is on display for public view at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.