Texas Day by Day

On this day in Texas history…

"Dusky Deamon" Bill Pickett born in Travis County

December 5th, 1870

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On this day in 1870, black rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett was born in the Jenks-Branch community in Travis County. After observing dogs subduing huge steers by biting their upper lips, the young Pickett found he could do the same thing. In 1888 he performed at the first fair in Taylor, his family's new hometown. As the "Dusky Deamon," Pickett performed at rodeos and fairs throughout Texas and the West. Capitalizing on his fame, he contracted in 1905 to perform at the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma. By 1907 he had become a full-time employee of the ranch, where he worked as a cowboy and performed with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. He entertained millions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, and England, and was featured in several motion pictures, the first black cowboy star. Pickett died in 1932 after being kicked in the head by a horse. His friend Will Rogers commented on his radio show: "Bill Pickett never had an enemy, even the steers wouldn't hurt old Bill." In 1972 Pickett became the first black honoree in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. In 1994 the United States Post Office issued a stamp in his honor, though the stamp accidentally showed one of Pickett's brothers.

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