Robert Claton Bradley [also known as Cowboy Bob Bradley], champion short stature professional wrestler, son of Jessie Denson Bradley and Gertrude Laura (Swaringen) Bradley, was born on February 11, 1935, in Dickens County, Texas. During his childhood he lived on a farm with his parents and five brothers and six sisters. In 1953 he graduated from Roaring Springs High School, located just north of Dickens County. Bradley then attended West Texas State College (now West Texas A&M University) for one semester before dropping out to take up his career in the ring.
Bradley joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Midget Championship circuit and made his debut on April 14, 1954. In Chicago he gained his wrestler name “Cowboy Bob” and won his first tag-team match with partner Haile Selassie, against opponents Fuzzy Cupid and Little Darling. During Bradley's career as a professional wrestler, he traveled across the United States and Canada to fight a recorded 951 matches. Due to missing fight records, Bradley’s recorded 547 wins could be more. He also had almost 100 different wrestling partners during tag-team events. These wrestlers included champions such as Cowboy Lang, Little Beaver, Lord Littlebrook, Sky Low Low, and Tiny Roe. In 1960 Bradley won the NWA World Midgets Title at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium against opponent Tiny Roe. Bradley proved to be a formidable wrestler in the ring and claimed numerous victories over previous champions.
Throughout Bradley's career he was referred to as a "midget wrestler," under an organization that encouraged the use of that term. Bradley grew up hearing the term widely used by the public. In 1957 Little People of America (LPA) was formed by short stature actor Billy Barty, who launched the fight against the derogatory term “midget.” The LPA was a frequent critic of “midget wrestling” due to what it considered the sport’s derogatory treatment of a group of people. Little people or short stature wrestlers held various views—both pro and con—regarding the use of the term “midget” but continued to take part in wrestling in the 2010s under different organizations such as the Micro Wrestling Foundation. The sport remained controversial due to its perception as being more of a comical event.
Bradley retired in 1971, but that did not end his wrestling career as he came out of retirement to fight matches in 1975 and 1977. This led to another one of Bradley's accomplishments in 1975, as he entered a tag-team matchup against wrestling legends Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo. Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo tied the record for most reigns as champions in their division. Bradley had come out of retirement to team up with Sonny Boy Hayes to defeat two of the most decorated wrestlers of his era. In 1977 he paired with tag-team partner Sonny Boy Cassidy to battle Little Bruiser and Mighty Atom.
Bradley had a daughter, Tammie Cassandra Bradley, on September 12, 1957, with Doris Yvonne Lankford, whom he later married. He and his wife lived in St. Joseph, Missouri, where they raised their daughter together for seven years. Bradley's work required him to tour throughout North America and caused him to be away from home multiple weeks at a time placing great stress on his marriage. The couple divorced in 1966. He did not remarry. After Bradley retired from wrestling, he spent several years in Las Vegas as a blackjack dealer. On June 24, 2010, Bradley died at the age of seventy-five in Amarillo, Texas. He was buried there in Memorial Park Cemetery beside his parents.
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Amarillo Globe-News, June 27, 2010. Cowboy Bradley, Wrestlingdata.com (http://wrestlingdata.com/index.php?befehl=bios&wrestler=12014&bild=1), accessed December 1, 2016.
Sports and Recreation
Sports (Boxing and Wrestling)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Bradley, Robert Claton [Cowboy Bob],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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