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Legendary Tucson rodeo stars enshrined in national hall of fame

Posted: 4:15 PM, Dec 13, 2021
Updated: 2021-12-13 18:54:37-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Southern Arizona has produced numerous rodeo stars, none bigger than the father-son duo of John and Thomas Rhodes.

Now, long after their deaths—they're enshrined in the national rodeo hall of fame—where they belong.

"I knew they were very good but I didn't realize that they were at that level nor did I realize there was that level," said grandson, John "Butch" Rhodes.

Tucson Rodeo Hall of Famers

Retired Marine Major John "Butch" Rhodes recalls growing up watching his father, Thomas Rhodes, and his grandfather, John Rhodes, compete in rodeo roping competitions.

"I knew that they always won after I got old enough to realize that they are pretty good. They're taking home money every time," said Rhodes.

How good were they at roping?

John and Thomas Rhodes used to dominate La Fiesta de los Vaqueros at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.

John and Thomas Rhodes

"I went through the records and found out of the first 31 rodeos in Tucson—28 times they won money at 'em," said Rhodes.

Not bad for a couple of ranchers from the other side of the Catalina Mountains. They had success at other rodeos around the country as well, whether it was on their own or together.

"They were so competitive that when they would rope together as a team, in team roping, if one of them would make a mistake they probably wouldn't speak to each other for a week," said Rhodes.

They also helped start what is now—the ProRodeo Cowboys Association.

Now, a half-century later, through the tireless efforts of "Butch," his father and grandfather are members of the rodeo hall of fame.

They were inducted posthumously, last month in Oklahoma City.

"I think it's nice for my children and their children to know that at some point that they had people in their family that were very good at something," said Rhodes.

"Butch" says his father actually won the calf roping competition at the Tucson Rodeo when he was just 17.

He says his grandfather actually competed in the Tucson Rodeo when he was 80-years-old.