Bill “The King” Linderman, know for his many contributions to rodeo, both as a contestant and an administrator. 


BillLinderman Devere bronc webAt Great Falls, Mont., native son Bill Linderman scores points on the bronc Speckled Boy. Photo by DeVere, from the WH “Rodeo Legends book. Use courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Written January, 1966 

When the United jet airliner crashed at the Salt Lake City airport on the evening of November 11, rodeo lost one of its all-time greats. Bill Linderman, 45, knew rodeo from all sides- and he believed in it, contested in it, promoted for it, and lived it.

Bill Linderman, 1920 – 1965. Photo by James Cathey

Bill was born at Bridger, Mont., in April of 1920. This is a land that has a history of some mining and a lot of ranching. Bill was exposed to each as he grew up. Older brothers, John and Lup, were good hands with broncs; and, a younger brother, Bud, was winning some rodeo money, when Bill made his start in the rodeo arena in the early 1940s. After Bill decided to rodeo, he went to the top in a hurry. He won the bareback bronc riding championship of the world in 1943, and went on to set a record of money won by one man in a lifetime of rodeo – some $443,000. His last big win was the bulldogging at the 1965 Pendleton Roundup which earned him $1,976.

Of DeVere Helfrich’s photographs, this is one of his favorites. Bill Linderman spurs a bareback bronc. Photo by DeVere, courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Bill was a master at bulldogging. Here, he stops a steer at Salinas. Photo by DeVere, courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

While making his mark in rodeo, Bill gathered in other world championships in addition to the bareback title. He was the all-around champion in 1950 and 1953, won saddle bronc titles in 1945 and 1950, and was the bulldogging champion for 1950. Bill served as president of the Rodeo Cowboys Association from 1951 through 1957, and then took over as secretary-treasurer of the organization in 1962.

Bill Linderman was known for his try – he didn’t do anything half way. When he decided to make his living in the arena, he gave it all he had. This determination came through when he became active in the business affairs of the R.C.A. – he tried his best to improve rodeo for the cowboys and for the rodeo sponsors. At the time of his death, he was on his way to Spokane, Wash., to meet with rodeo committees.

A man must be dead before he is enshrined in the Rodeo Hall of Fame. It’s a shame that Bill Linderman now qualifies – no one has done more for the growth of professional rodeo.

An excerpt from Western Horseman‘s “Rodeo Legends” book:

Bill Linderman is remembered no tonly as an inductee into both the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, but in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s annual Linderman Award. The trophy is awarded to the cowboy who wins at least $1,000 in each of three (or more) events, including a rough-stock and a timed event. It is considered among the toughest rodeo awards to win and the mark of rodeo’s best true all-around hand.  

Career Milestones, from WH‘s Rodeo Legends book.

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