Sunday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is always Memorial Night. This is a time when those from the Wrangler NFR family who have passed away during the previous year are recognized for their contributions to the event and the sport as a whole. The opening pageant of the National Finals Rodeo will honor two great rodeo women.
At 90 years of age four-time champion Billie Hinson McBride lived a full life before passing away in May 2017. She spent her entire life in Texas where she loved horses and became a cowgirl when she was a small child. She went on to compete in professional rodeo as a member of the Girls’ Rodeo Association, which eventually became the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. She served on the GRA board as a Director and later as a Vice President and eventually President.
Billie’s great mare Zombie helped her win a record four times back to back World Championships from 1955-1958, which held in the record books for nearly 30 years until Scamper and Charmayne James won their fourth consecutive world title in 1987.
In 1981 Billie was inducted into both the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1981. Today she is memorialized in the Thomas & Mack to acknowledge rodeo’s loss and to honor her legacy.
Billie McBride Passes Away at 90
Four-time world champion Billie Hinson McBride passed away May 10 at the age of 90. McBride, of San Angelo, Texas, was a charter member of the Girls Rodeo Association and loved life and lived it to the fullest until a week before she passed, due to a sudden stroke.
She was born in Copperas Cove, Texas, on March 4, 1927 and this year her friends and family gathered to celebrate her big day as she turned 90!
She loved horses and was a cowgirl from a very young age. She and her sisters ran barrels at rodeos throughout their younger years. Billie went on to compete professionally in the Girls Rodeo Association for a number of years. She was a charter member of the GRA and served as Director, Secretary, Vice President and President over the years. She and her beloved mare "Zombie" won the World Championship four consecutive years, 1955-1958. This record would stand for 29 years, until Charmayne James won her fourth consecutive world title in 1987. Billie and her daughter, Alva Jean, both competed on Zombie at the same performances, Billie running first and Alva Jean last with frantic stirrup adjustments in between. Zombie had to retire from running professionally as a result of night blindness, which hindered her in coliseums. Billie later handed over the reins to grandchildren, Kevin, Keith, and Vanessa for Jr. Rodeo competition. McBride was honored for her rodeo accomplishments by being inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum in 1981, and also into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame that same year, both of which are located in Ft. Worth, Texas.
McBride worked at M.L. Leddy's and Sons for 30 years. She stitched boot tops and made leather novelties, such as billfolds, notebooks, etc.
Some of her memorabilia is currently on display through September at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame as part of the WPRA exhibit in the 101 Gallery.
Nancy Hunter competed in the National Finals Rodeo in 2014 finishing fourth and in 2015 where she finished 10th. She loved being in Las Vegas on her beloved mount “Fuzz”. Shortly after she left Las Vegas she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2016.
They say bad luck comes in threes and shortly after her diagnosis, Nancy’s horse Fuzz coliced and the family made a very hard decision to put him down.
Nancy was just 56 years old when bad luck struck for the third time and she succumbed to her illness and passed away in March 2017.
Prayers for Hunter Family on the Passing of Nancy
by Ann Bleiker
The WPRA said goodbye to one of their own on Sunday, March 12, after Nancy Hunter lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. Hunter, 59, of Neola, Utah, was diagnosed with cancer on August 18, 2016.
Hunter qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2014 and again in 2015, finishing the year's ranked fourth and 10th, respectively in the final year-end standings. She won the fifth round at her final NFR in a time of 13.62 seconds.
In 2015, Hunter also captured the barrel racing title at RodeoHouston for the third consecutive time and qualified for the NFR after competing in just 26 rodeos. Nancy's husband, Fred, was right beside her during her barrel racing career serving as her main coach and support system. Nancy spent many years working as a registered nurse in the emergency room.
Hunter experienced all her rodeo dreams aboard a sorrel gelding Flit Fizz "Fuzz" that Fred trained. As Nancy began her battle with cancer last year, the family was faced with another difficult decision on August 30, 2016 when they had to put Fuzz down due to colic. At the time the family wrote on Facebook, Despite our hardest efforts and prayers we humanely sent him to Heaven. Our hearts are broken, we will forever honor, respect and love that horse.
So now as the family faces the loss of Nancy, her son, Wyatt, wrote a great tribute on Facebook "Her passionate approach to the arena of life left an influence on immeasurable amounts of people. As she ran through the pattern of this mortality she met the challenges and tough times head on never shrinking from her path and always keeping in mind that with the greatest of trials there will always be the success at the end. This morning Nancy rounded the third barrel and ran home to that God who gave her life, with her head held high knowing she had done all the Lord had commanded her to do."
She left a lasting mark on those she came in contact with. She was an emergency room nurse outside of the arena. She used her time in the rodeo arena to have an impact, as well. Nancy Hunter's "Glitter Like Gold” fund raising campaign debuted in December 2015 when she made her second official appearance.
Hunter was inspired to raise money and awareness about childhood cancer after her son, Colton Hunter, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 10. Through the hard work and research of doctors and others at Primary Children’s Hospital, Colton was cured.
At the 2015 NFR Nancy and all of the contestants glittered their horses and wore gold during one of the performances. Through her fundraising efforts Hunter was able to donate just over $10,000 to St Jude's Children’s Research hospital.
After Nancy lost her own battle with pancreatic cancer in August of 2016 the NFR Barrel Racers wore purple in her honor one performance in the Thomas & Mack last year. This year, Nancy will be honored in Round 4 of the NFR on Memorial Night, and the barrel racers will all be wearing wild rags as a tip of the hat to Nancy.