George Fletcher’s family came to Oregon at the turn of the century and settled in Pendelton. Growing up he became friends with Native Americans from the Umatilla Indian Reservation and learned their language, customs and horsemanship.
By the age of 12 he had begun to rodeo and by the age of 20 took second place in a 1910 July 4th celebration rodeo in Pendelton, which evolved into The Pendelton Roundup.
In 1911 he made the finals in Saddle Bronc riding and after his ride was a crowd favorite to win the championship. The judges however gave him second place which caused a near riot from the crowd, who recognized that an injustice had been done to him. The Sheriff took up a collection from the crowd and awarded it to him, proclaiming him “The People’s Champion”.
He went on to enter and win many saddle bronc competitions in Oregon until he was wounded in World War I and was unable to continue. He worked as a ranch cowboy in the Pendelton area into old age and died in 1973.
Fletcher was inducted into the Pendleton Roundup Hall of Fame in 1969 and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma in 2006.
We have a variety of programs to suit all ages. Contact us to introduce your classroom, civic organization or group to Oregon’s original Black Pioneers.