Barbara Inez (Tad) Lucas, rodeo champion, was born on September 1, 1902, at Cody, Nebraska, one of twenty-four children of Lorenzo White Barnes. Her mother, Hannah Garthside Barnes, was Lorenzo's second wife. Tad could not remember the time before she started riding. She was helping her brothers break colts by age seven and often rode calves for amusement. She participated in horseback races and contests against other ranch children and local Sioux Indians. She made her professional debut at the Gordon, Nebraska, Fair in 1917 and moved to Texas soon after. She became a full-time professional cowgirl in 1922. In 1923 she toured the United States and Mexico with a Wild West show and took second in bronc riding at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. She and cowboy James Edward (Buck) Lucas were among the stars selected to compete at a major international rodeo at Wembley Stadium in London, England, in June 1924. They were married on May 23, while in New York City awaiting departure. Their honeymoon was the voyage to London aboard the Menomee. At Wembley, Tad made her debut in trick riding, the contest that eventually earned her greatest fame.
On returning from England Tad and Buck began construction of the Fort Worth home in which Tad lived until her death. The couple had two daughters. Mitzi, the younger, began riding with Tad in grand entries when less than a year old and performed with her mother for many years thereafter. With another rodeo couple, the Lucases purchased the Triangle Rodeo Company. From the mid-1920s through 1942 Tad won virtually every major prize offered to women in rodeo, competing in bronc riding, trick riding, and relay racing. Among her greatest honors was winning three times in succession and retiring the $10,000 MGM Trophy awarded to the champion all-around cowgirl at Madison Square Garden, where she also won the title for trick riding five times. She captured major prizes at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, where she won six trick-riding titles, several relay racing awards, and the bronc riding event. She was also victorious at prestigious rodeos in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Fort Worth, and Sidney, Australia.
When women's contests were dropped from the major rodeo circuit during World War II, Tad Lucas remained active as performer and official. She was one of the charter members of the Girls Rodeo Association in 1948 (now the Women's Professional Rodeo Association). Her prestige gave added credibility to that fledging organization, which she supported as officer, rodeo official, contestant, performer, and clown from its formation through her retirement in 1958. Tad Lucas was a member of the Episcopal church. She was one of the founders of the Rodeo Historical Society in 1966 and served as its president from 1970 to 1974. She was elected to the board of directors for another ten years; she became an honorary board member in 1984. She is the only person honored by all three rodeo halls of fame: the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1967 (she was the first woman elected), the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1978, and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979. She is considered the greatest rodeo cowgirl of all time and was the most successful, most popular, and most famous woman in rodeo history. She died on February 23, 1990, in Fort Worth. In her will she established the Tad Lucas Memorial Award to honor women who excel in any field related to Western heritage. In 2017 a children's book, Tad Lucas: Trick-Riding Rodeo Cowgirl, written by Laura Edge and illustrated by Stephanie Ford, was published by Pelican Books.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 26, 1990. Teresa Jordan, Cowgirls: Women of the American West (Garden City, New York: Anchor, 1982). Mary Lou LeCompte, "Champion Cowgirls of Rodeo's Golden Age," Journal of the West 28 (April 1989). Jane Pattie, "Rodeo's First Lady: Tad Lucas," Quarter Horse Journal, June 1961.
Sports and Recreation
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mary Lou LeCompte,
“Lucas, Barbara Inez Barnes [Tad],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 10, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.