Rufus Green, Sr., African-American champion calf roper and horse trainer, was born near Edna, Texas, on March 30, 1923. He attended school only through the elementary grade level. When he was fifteen years old, he found employment as a ranch hand on the F.W. Gross Ranch in Victoria, Texas, where his cowboy days began as he developed an ability to ride horses. He learned to rope and care for horses under the direction of cowboys James Fry and Richard Miller. Green’s ability to communicate with horses enabled him to eventually develop into one of the best roping, barrel racing, hazing, and cutting horse trainers of his time. On weekends he competed against other cowboys on the ranch as they rode bucking horses and roped calves. As his skills developed, he entered local rodeos in South Texas to supplement his income. Green was so successful in calf roping competitions that he made enough money to quit his ranch job and became a full-time rodeo professional during the 1950s.
In the early 1960s Green was the first African American to enter the calf roping event in the Houston Fat Stock Show held at the Sam Houston Coliseum. He placed second in the tie-down contest. This event happened long before Blacks were allowed seats inside the arena.
During his career, Green competed in more than 2,000 rodeos all across the United States and won many monetary prizes, trophies, saddles, and belt buckles. He was featured in Ebony magazine in 1957. He was named all-around champion at rodeos at Frank County Fair in Ottawa, Kansas, in 1960 and Manor Downs in Austin, Texas, in 1978.
Green and his first wife, Doris M. Griffin, had two sons—Rufus Jr., a medical doctor, and Bobby L. Green, a registered nurse. He married again and with second wife, Castella Green, had six foster children. Green also had a daughter named Lawana Green-Stevenson.
Green was a founding member of the Southwestern Rodeo Cowboy’s Association, a historically Black organization. He was one of the first Black cowboys to receive a Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) Card. Green trained more than 1,000 competition horses. He also trained more than 100 young men and women to ride, rope, barrel race, and bulldog in rodeos and horse riding competitions. Many of his students went on to be top contenders themselves, including William Hollis, Cleo Hearns, Shirley Gladden, Calvin Greeley, and Cedric Haynes.
Later in life, Green not only remained active in the competitive rodeo circuit, he was also a staunch promoter of the events. He and Monroe Lawson produced the first rodeo on the campus of Prairie View A&M University to celebrate Black history. Green received his last trophy saddle for competing in the senior category at a rodeo in Conroe, Texas, in 1978. He continued to compete and attend rodeos and calf roping until his death on January 17, 1982, at his home in Prairie View, Texas.
Close friend Monroe Lawson summed up Green’s life and personality and stated that he was “exceptional in his roping skills, majestic in his performance, incomparable in his disposition, unique in his sense of humor, shrewd as a horse trader, a master teacher of calf roping and most admirable in his relationships with young people.” Rufus Green, Sr., was inducted into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2007.