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The Legendary Roberts Family
A Tradition in Rodeo

 

Gerald Roberts was born to rodeo.

On October 5th, 1919, in a limestone country house in Council Grove in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Gerald Roberts became the third child of a rodeo-destined family. There would be 6 children in all - four boys and two girls:

  1. Marjorie Mae Roberts
  2. Ken Roberts
  3. Gerald Roberts
  4. Howard Roberts
  5. Clifford Roberts
  6. Gloria Ann Roberts

At the helm of this hard-working, ranching family were E.C. Roberts and his wife Clara. E.C. married Clara Marie Suebert on December 23, 1914 in Council Grove, Kansas. Emmett Chester Roberts, born February 11, 1895, was a respected cowboy and rodeo and stock producer who started Roberts Rodeo Company. He'd been born when horses were still the only mode of transportation - horses became his life, his business (Frank Buchman, Grass & Grain - Hey Neighbor, Sept 1992). E.C. Roberts was named Mr. Rodeo by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association at the Denver Stock Show in 1979.

E.C. started the annual Flint Hills rodeo in Strong City, Kansas at his ranch in 1937. The rodeo is still held in Strong City every year in June. At 97-years-old, E.C. passed away September 2, 1992 in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. His funeral service was held at the Flint Hills Rodeo Grounds - the rodeo he had started on his own land more than fifty years earlier. At the time of his death, E.C. was survived by 2 sons, 1 daughter, 1 sister, 20 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren and 27 great-great-grandchildren.

E.C. Roberts

"I've had a good life and a world of friends and probably wouldn't have had either without the rodeo," E.C. once said. (1990 interview, Chase County Leader-News).

E.C. & Clara's Wedding Day - 12-23-1914

E.C. and Clara's Wedding Day
December 23, 1914

E.C. and Clara Roberts' 50th Wedding Anniversary

E.C. and Clara's 50th Wedding Anniversary
December 23, 1964

The three younger siblings didn't follow in their older siblings' footsteps - only Margie, Ken and Gerald took up the sport of rodeo.

Shortly after Gerald was born, the family bought a house and some land in Strong City, Kansas. E.C. used to take the kids to "lil' ol' pasture rodeos." At the age of 5, Gerald not only knew he wanted to be a rodeo cowboy, he wanted to be a champion.

The kids grew up raising livestock, breaking wild horses, and working the ranch. Any chance they got, they were riding unruly animals and even rode horses to school to break them in.

Margie, the oldest, and Ken, one-and-a-half years Gerald's senior, went off to join Clyde Miller's Wild West Show when Gerald was about 12. It didn't take long for the younger brother to follow suit and at the age of 13, Gerald went off to join Clyde Miller's Wild West Show too.

The Roberts' clan was known for putting on impromptu rodeos on the Roberts' ranch. Parked cars would form the arena and the Roberts' kids would put on a show for anyone around town who wanted to watch. E.C. and friend Wally Evans got the idea to start the Flint Hills Rodeo when Margie, Ken and Gerald decided to have a rodeo on the family farm in 1937. "They threw up some snow fence and the fun began."

Famous rodeo cowboys, such as Jim Shoulders and Casey Tibbs, who were lifelong friends of the family, spent countless hours on the Roberts' ranch learning the ways of the rodeo business.

From working the livestock on the farm and riding all day long in the Wild West Show, Gerald had all the hands on training a future Professional Cowboy could ask for. There was no question about it . . . Gerald loved to ride and he rode anything and everything in sight.

Professional Rodeo would be his destiny . . .

 

 

 

The first child was Marjorie Mae (or Margie as she was sometimes called), born July 3, 1916. She was a beautiful, awe-inspiring woman who grew up to be a nationally acclaimed trick rider and a champion bareback bronc rider (when the event was still open to women).

At the age of 19, Margie originated "the dive" - a trick ride in which she stood in the saddle and leaned far forward over the neck of her speeding horse. She discovered the trick by accident when she lost her balance while standing in the saddle and realized that the resistance of the wind and the speed of her horse kept her from falling. The thunderous applause that followed her "accidental" trick ride led Margie to perfect it and incorporate it into her act in Clyde Miller's Wild West Show.

She rode bareback at all the big rodeos of her day including Cheyenne and Madison Square Garden. She won the women's bronc riding in 1940 at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Margie (Hart), who died of cancer on April 23, 1982, is recognized as the champion cowgirl she was . . . she's in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas (inducted in 1987). Margie had no children.



Margie Roberts riding at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo
Margie on Strawberry
Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo

The second was Ken, a three time World Champion Bull Rider - and younger brother Gerald's idol. Ken was born January 22, 1918 in Council Grove, Kansas. Ken credited older sister, Margie, for leading him and Gerald into rodeo. Ken was World Champion Bull Rider 1943, 1944 and 1945. Ken died in Strong City, Kansas on September 12, 1975. (Read more about Ken at the bottom of the Rodeo Days page). Ken had 4 daughters: Betty, Nancy, Ann Charlene & Patty.

Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts

The third child, of course, was Gerald, who became a Twice All Around World Champion cowboy in 1942 and 1948. Please read more about Gerald throughout this web site. Gerald had 3 daughters (Lala, Claudette and Geri) by his first wife Enes and a son and a daughter (Jim and Kasey) by his second wife Vivian who played the organ at many rodeos. Gerald married his third wife Pat in the 60's and claimed her 2 daughters (Jaye and Joye) from a previous marriage as his own. Gerald and Pat lived in Abilene, Kansas and together ran their chap making business, Chap-Parel, until they both passed away; Gerald in 2004 and Pat in 2005.

Gerald Roberts

Gerald Roberts

The fourth child, Howard, who did a little rodeoing, mostly stayed on the family farm to tend to the rodeo stock. He and his wife, Connie, made Strong City, Kansas their home. Howard and Connie had four daughters Terri, Jerri, Carole & Jill and one son, Robin.

The fifth child, Clifford, grew up to work on the railroad and pursue his passion of flying planes. He married Coral in 1944 and they had two children: Sue and Alan. Clifford followed his older brother Howard into the Merchant Marines and even though brothers were not allowed to serve on the same ship, they both ended up serving on the same ship in the North Atlantic. Luckily, they both returned home safely. Clifford tragically died in a plane crash - he reportedly crashed in a deserted field to avoid the risk of injury to persons on the ground.

The sixth child, the baby of the family, is sweet-hearted and beautiful Gloria, who grew up to be a school teacher. She and her husband, Joe, live in Clay Center, Kansas. They have two children: Melissa and Joe.


The whole E.C. Roberts Family

The whole Roberts family!
(photo taken about 1945 -1946 in Strong City, Kansas by Homer Venters).

From left to right:
Ken, Gerald, Clifford, Howard, E.C., Clara, Marjorie, Gloria Ann

 

Strong City & Flint Hills of Kansas Honor the Roberts Family

To honor the rodeo family who started it all in Strong City, Kansas, a permanent 6 by 20 foot mural with paintings of E.C., Marge, Ken and Gerald was dedicated on the Flint Hills Rodeo Grounds in June 1994. The project, funded by the Educational, Cultural, Development and Flint Hills Rodeo Committees, features paintings by local artists: Dena Kleinsorge (who painted Gerald), Peggy Lyon, Debbie Schroer and Audrey Murrell.

Click here to see the portraits and
read more about the mural!

 

   





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