Barbara Inez Barnes became Tad Lucas, then changed rodeo for women everywhere. She is the only person honored by all three rodeo halls of fame: the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1967 (where she was the first woman elected), the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1978, and the Prorodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.
Born September 1, 1902, near Cody, Nebraska with 23 siblings, she found her way onto a saddle early in life. First came breaking colts and racing horses, then entry into the Gordon, Nebraska Fair rodeo at age 15 and taking first place in steer riding. After this win, Tad moved to Texas, becoming a professional, full-time cowgirl in 1922. Soon she was performing as a racer, bronc rider, and rough stock contestant.
Photo: @snorinhorse via Twenty20
In 1923, she toured throughout the United States and Mexico in a Wild West show, taking second place in bronc riding at New York’s Madison Square Garden Rodeo. After this win, Tad and fellow cowboy James Edward (Buck) Lucas were chosen to compete at the June 1924 Tex Austin Rodeo at London’s Wembley Stadium. While waiting to depart on the trip, Tad and Buck married; taking advantage of the travel to England as their honeymoon. While at Wembley, Tad’s career advanced with her trick riding debut.
Between 1928 and 1930, she earned permanent possession of the famed Metro Goldwyn Mayer Trophy for trick riding five times and three successive victories as All-Around Champion Cowgirl. Tad won awards for trick-riding, relay racing, and bronc riding, becoming victorious in Boston, Chicago, Houston, and Fort Worth, just to name a few. At the age of 38, Tad joined the U.S. Rodeo Team, traveling to Australia to compete in the Royal Easter Show. In her later years, she rode in and produced rodeos, ultimately involving herself in rodeos for four decades.
A 1948 charter member of the Girls Rodeo Association (now the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association), she retired in 1958 and was honored in 1989 with the inauguration of the Tad Lucas Memorial Award. Until her death on February 23, 1990, she lived in Fort Worth, where she and Buck had constructed a home in 1925 and raised their two daughters. Although not a native Texan, Tad got here as soon as she could!