2022 BHSS Premier: Jim Sutton Jr. inducted into 2020 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
Jim Sutton is the patriarch of Sutton Rodeo, a six-generation family operation still running strong. Sutton Rodeo is based in Onida, S.D. Jim and his wife, Julie, were the recipients of the 2017 PRCA Donita Barnes Contract Personnel Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sutton Rodeo has had three PRCA Horse of the Year awards: saddle bronc horse Deep Water in 1979, bareback horse Big Bud in 1985 and saddle bronc horse Chuckulator in 2012. Chuckulator also was the top saddle bronc horse of the 2012 NFR. Sutton Rodeo stock has been selected to perform at every NFR since its inception in 1959, except one.
“It’s my birthday (today, April 20), so this was quite the gift,” said Sutton, 85, of the notification of the induction. “This is something I really appreciate. I have been inducted into a half dozen halls of fame, and if there’s one I wanted to be in, this would be it. This is the best award I have ever received.”
Jim and Julie took the company to the next level with a focus on production and innovation. Jim began the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo in 1978, which later became Rodeo Rapid City, a rodeo nominated 15 times for PRCA Indoor Rodeo of the Year, winning the award in 2002-03. It won Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year in 2021.
Jim originated the Wrangler Bullfights and the Bailey Bail-Off. He is famous for his pageantry and colorful rodeo openings, including the openings at the NFR in 1995-96. Jim has been nominated four times as Stock Contractor of the Year.
“I put up with 20 of the best bullfighters in the world for 20 years, I thought that was a pretty good feat,” Jim said.
“I don’t know how it could be any better,” said Sutton. “This is a pretty big deal when you get in with people like Casey Tibbs. I really never thought about being in the (ProRodeo) Hall of Fame. I tried to rodeo as good as I could and figured I wasn’t going to get in the Hall of Fame that direction. I think our rodeo company and the people in it who are mostly family have all done well with their part, and you add it all up and it turns out pretty good.”
The induction ceremony was postponed from 2020 to July 17, 2021. Jim’s wife, Julie, passed away from cancer on July 21, 2021.
“You could give her the credit for everything,” Jim said. “When we cranked up to start with, she was doing about everything. It wasn’t just the show in Rapid City, she’s been involved in every rodeo we’ve had, and probably more-so than any of us.”
The roots of the Suttons being involved in the rodeo business can be traced to 1926 when the Edwin Sutton family – Edwin was Jim’s grandfather – began producing rodeos on the home ranch in Sully County, S.D.
James H. Sutton Sr. took Sutton Rodeo to the next stage in the 1950s when he entered a partnership with Erv Korkow. As one of the first members of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, Sutton/Korkow stock performed at the first National Finals Rodeo in Dallas in 1959.
James was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1982. “I don’t know anybody else I would rather follow,” Jim said.
In 1968, James (Jim) Sutton Jr. became a partner with his dad, forming Sutton Rodeo Company.
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