Fred Whitfield is one of the most recognized cowboys at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
He’s an eight-time world champion and has raked in more than $3 million in his career.
And in a sport where only about five percent of the professional competitors are African-Americans, many say Whitfield is also a trailblazer.
Whitfield say, “People come from all over the world, and to walk up and tell you that you’ve brought them to the sport of the rodeo, it means a lot to me.”
Callies says, “Fred Whitfield brought out a lot of black cowboys.”
Larry Callies owns the Black Cowboy History Museum just outside of Houston.
Callies says, “In 1825, that’s one of the biggest ranches in Texas had black slaves that rode horses, and they were called cowboys.”
Callies says money, however, stopped more people from jumping in professionally.
Callies says, “The American Cowboy, he has to foot his own bill, and most of the black cowboys don’t have the money to travel.”
Whitfield credits a sponsor for helping start his career.
He grew up poor and learned how to rope from a neighbor.
Whitfield says, “I had a family, caucasian family, that said, hey, here’s an open check, you need horses, trucks, trailers, whatever you need, it’s available.”
Money wasn’t the only obstacle — he’s faced racism too.
In the end, he says it’s all been worth it and has this advice.
Whitfield says, “You have to work your tail off. Whether you’re black, white, green, purple, it doesn’t matter.”
Rivera says, “Whitfield is retired but he still competes occasionally in big events like here at Rodeo Houston. But he did say he might hang up his hat for good after this competition.