World renowned stock entrepreneur Neal Gay, a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Famer, died Aug. 11 at his ranch in Terrell, Texas, with his family by his side. He was 96 years old.
Gay was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1993. His professional rodeo career began as a competitor in Atoka, Okla., in 1945.
Born June 25, 1926 in Dallas, Gay rode bulls, saddled broncs and barebacks and wrestled steers. His competitive years were quickly overshadowed by his rodeo contracting and production skills.
In 1957, Gay founded Rafter G Rodeo, which is still going strong in the heart of Texas three generations later. In May 1958, Gay put Mesquite, Texas on the map with the opening of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo in partnership with several other cowboys. The rodeo has grown from a small Saturday night rodeo to a cultural icon watched by millions of people on television each year.
Gay opened up about his rodeo career in a Dec. 31, 2016, article in ProRodeo Sports News., when Neal and his son Don became the first father-son duo to receive the ProRodeo legend.
“It was a tough racquet to make, but I enjoyed every minute,” Neal said. “I’ve never regretted getting into the rodeo world. I’ve always loved it, and my family has loved it. It’s been a blessing to me.
Rodeo runs in the family for Gays. Neal’s son Don, himself a ProRodeo Hall of Famer, is an eight-time world PRCA bull riding champion. Pete, qualified for the Wranglers National Final Rodeo in 1972-73 and 1976 as a bull rider. His other son, Jim, runs the family rodeo stock production business.
“He always said, ‘God was first, family was right behind, and rodeo was right after,'” Jim Gay said. “He loved the rodeo and its rearing horses and bulls. One of his best things he used to say was that he lived a blessed life because he woke up every day and was a cowboy.
Casey Harp, assistant general manager of Rafter G Rodeo, said without Neal Gay the rodeo would not be what it is today.
“With the passing of Neal, this really ends the greatest generation of PRCA stock entrepreneurs,” Harp said. “They were the founders of our industry and they have maintained it for all these years. They are the ones who made it all possible and each of us owes a lot to these men for what they have done for us.
Gay is also a member of the Texas Hall of Fame and received the Ben Johnson Memorial Award from the National Cowboy Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2009.
Funeral and memorial services will be announced at a later date.
Courtesy of PRCA