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The Texas Prison Rodeo was a rodeo and an annual celebration event for inmates in the Texas Prison System, held in a stadium in Huntsville, Texas.[1] The stadium was located at the Huntsville Unit.[2] The events included bareback basketball, bronco riding, bull riding, calf roping, and wild cow milking.[1]

Marshall Lee Simmons, the general manager of the prison system, started the rodeo in 1931.[1] The rodeo originated in the Eastham Unit.[3] Johnny Cash played his first-ever concert at the Texas Prison Rodeo in 1956.[4] Women participated in the rodeo until 1981, when they were moved from the Goree Unit in Huntsville to the prisons in Gatesville. In 1986, structural problems with the rodeo arena caused the facility to close.[1] The rodeo ended because the state began getting money from the federal government for educational and recreational programs for the inmates. Texas no longer needed to raise money to buy educational and recreational materials.[2] The state had been suffering from an economic recession, and the Texas Legislature was not willing to spend $500,000 to repair the prison rodeo stadium.[5] Several unsuccessful attempts to restart the rodeo occurred in the 1990s.[1]

The rodeo became part of the history of the US space program, when during the training for the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz mission, NASA brought the cosmonauts in training, along with other Soviet personnel, to the Huntsville rodeo.[citation needed]

The rodeo was featured in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta, Debra Winger, and Scott Glenn.


See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Convict Cowboys: The Untold History of the Texas Prison Rodeo by Mitchel P. Roth, 2016, University of North Texas Press


  1. ^ a b c d e "Texas Prison Rodeo." Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Graczyk, Michael. "Prison vehicle lot reflects Texas budget dilemma." Associated Press at the Houston Chronicle. September 18, 2010. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
  3. ^ Perkinson, Robert. Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire. First Edition. Metropolitan Books, 2010. 43. ISBN 978-0-8050-8069-8.
  4. ^
  5. ^ ")))SXSW Screening of 'Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo'." Austin Chronicle. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.

External linksEdit