BARTLESVILLE — Funeral services for rodeo hall-of-famer Shoat Webster were held Friday in Lenapah, the lifelong home of the legendary cowboy who is considered one of the greatest ropers of all time.
Webster died Monday, May 20, in Bartlesville at the age of 88.
The funeral service was held in the Old Rock Gym at Lenapah with Justin McKee, pastor of Cowboy Capital Fellowship Church, officiating. The Rev. Steve Cody was listed as a co-celebrant.
A graveside service and interment followed at Mt. Washington Cemetery, northwest of town. Benjamin Funeral Home in Nowata handled the arrangements, which included a Thursday visitation.
Webster is survived by his wife of 55 years, Shirley, and two children: Shoat Webster Jr. and Cathey Forrest. Other survivors include sisters Betty Straw, Francis Gasche and Helen Courtney, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Howard Chouteau “Shoat” Webster was around 10 years old when his aunt Kate (Chouteau) introduced him to Fred Lowry — who was the first of five world champion cowboys to emerge from the tiny Nowata County town.
Lowry, who won six world championships between 1916 and 1929, would later become Webster’s uncle and his benefactor. The success of the older rodeo star inspired Webster to become a cowboy and he learned much from his mentor after he began working on Lowry’s large area cattle operation.
With a lariat bought for him by his aunt, young Webster said began roping anything that moved.
“Dogs, cats, chickens and, mostly, my four sisters,” the five-time champion steer roper would later claim.
From 1949 through 1955, Webster won four steer roping world championships and twice finished as the runner-up. He gained immortal fame during that time by claiming top honors in three straight appearances at the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up. In 1951, Webster was finally given permanent possession of the Pendleton event’s Sam Jackson all-around cowboy trophy.
Despite his immense success as a professional steer roper in the 1950s, Webster did not always receive the recognition he deserved in the sport of rodeo. The reason for that, experts said, was because Webster did not take part in that many events on the circuit. Instead, the Lenapah cowboy put his priorities on ranching interests back home.
“But in places like San Angelo and Pawhuska, Shoat Webster was bigger than Elvis,” rodeo announcer Justin McKee once said.
Webster won the first three Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping (1954-55-56) and earned three more titles at the Pawhuska event in 1959, 1960 and 1965.
In his heyday, Webster averaged around $30,000 per year in rodeo. He turned down many times that amount when — in his prime and before the dangers of smoking tobacco were widely known — he turned down an offer to become the Marlboro Man.
“I never cared for smoking, especially by kids,” he was quoted as saying. “And, if they saw ol’ Shoat doin’ it, they might have to do it, too.”
His colleagues on the professional rodeo circuit believe Webster could easily have won more world titles if he traveled more. But he reamined at home in Oklahoma much of the time, caring for ranching interests in the Lenapah area of Nowata County.
A direct descendant of a Oklahoma pioneer family, Webster was born in Lenapah on Jan. 23, 1925. He earned steer roping world championships in 1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955, and gained induction into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.