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Texas Prison Rodeo

Texas Prison Rodeo, 1936. The Texas Prison Rodeo was first held in October 1931 and was the brainchild of Col. Lee Simmons, Manager of the Texas Prison System. After getting the blessing of local clergy to hold the event on Sunday, Simmons put Albert Moore, the Prison Welfare Director, in charge of organizing the event and with the aid of Walter W. Waid, Warden at the Walls Unit, and R. O. McFarling, the Livestock Supervisor, Moore gathered together livestock, participants and equipment from the various units and held the event in a vacant lot outside of the Walls Unit in Huntsville that was used as a baseball field for inmates. The event was originally planned for the entertainment and recreation of prison inmates and prison employees with a handful of local residents watching the show, but within two years the crowds attending the rodeo had grown to 15,000. To accommodate the fans Simmons had wooden bleachers built and began to charge admission. In 1950 a new brick concrete and steel structure was built around the old baseball field to house the rodeo (seen in the left center of the photograph), which was now held every Sunday in October and attracting more than 50,000 people. The money generated from ticket sales and merchandise made by inmates for sale at the event not only covered the costs for holding the rodeo but also subsidized the inmate recreation and education fund, which provided books, equipment and even dentures and a Christmas turkey dinner for inmates.