Steve Gramith considers himself a “foot soldier” in the sport of rodeo. The humble man was involved as both a contestant and a pickup man, […]
All his life, Alvin Davis has worked hard to promote the western culture and cowboy way of life. At the age of seven, he got bitten by the “cowboy bug”, and devoted the rest of his life to cowboys, ranching, and the west.
He was born in 1927 in Post, Texas, the son of Glenn and Viva Davis. When he was seven, his parents took him to the Texas Cowboy Reunion at Stamford, where Will Rogers was a guest. Rogers, who was killed two months later, became his hero, and still is, to this day.
Alvin wanted to be a calf roper, but weighing 140 lbs., “soaking wet,” he knew he couldn’t handle the calves. And at that time, team roping hadn’t made its way from California to Texas. So Alvin devoted his life to the administration side of rodeo and the western heritage. He graduated from high school in 1944 and spent a semester at Texas A&M. But A&M was too far from home, and not what he envisioned, so he came home.
When he turned 18, Uncle Sam beckoned, and he enlisted for 18 months in the army. He missed fighting in World War II by three months but felt an obligation to enlist; “I felt I owed my country something, since I missed out on the war.” He came home a 19 year old sergeant, and went straight to Texas Tech in Lubbock. During his college years, he devoted himself to 4-H, winning at the county and state levels, and for three years, winning trips to the National 4-H
His final 4-H project, in 1948, was the first of the numerous cowboy projects Alvin would be involved in. He produced the World’s Original All-Junior Rodeo. All participants, both contestants and directors, were ages 19 and under. It was held in Post, with an afternoon and evening performance the first year. The second year, it went to three days, and in its third year, in 1951, contestants came from three states, and news reels from across the nation covered it.
In its fourth year, Alvin turned it over to the juniors, and began work on another rodeo project. He formed the American Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA), one of the first youth rodeo organizations in the nation. He served as administrator from 1952 to 1958. The AJRA celebrated its 61st year in 2013.
People took note of Alvin’s ability to organize and administrate. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) came calling in 1955. They needed an administrator, and Alvin took the job. He set up headquarters for the AJRA and the NIRA in a one-room building he built in Post, decorated with a western theme. In 1958, he turned the NIRA to a new administrator, in good financial shape and order.
During this time, he held down a fulltime job at the bank in Brownfield, earning $500 a month. His salary with the AJRA and NIRA was $125 a month, and after a short while, his rodeo income was increased by $25 for each association. But he wasn’t doing it for the money. “I wanted to provide a service, and support rodeo, wanting it to be big and great and fine.”
Alvin didn’t stop at rodeo associations. He brought a cowboy poetry gathering to Lubbock in 1989, having seen it done in Alpine, Texas, and Elko, Nev., and he founded the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration in Lubbock, the largest such event in the nation, which features cowboy storytellers, poets, musicians, chuckwagon cook-offs, and vendors.
He also was executive vice-president and general manager of the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech, an indoor/outdoor museum with exhibits and 50 structures from historic Texas ranches.
Alvin worked at the Brownfield bank till 1959, when he moved to Clovis, N.M., to work as executive vice-president and director of banks in Clovis and Melrose, N.M. He and his family spent a year in Clovis before coming back to Levelland, Texas, where he and a partner owned western stores there and in Brownfield. He first managed the Levelland store, but when the partnership split, his partner took the Levelland location and he and his wife moved to Brownfield to operate that store. He was in the retail business for twenty years, selling the store in 1979.
It was while at a retailers’ meeting for western wear and equipment, that he and a group of men decided to form another organization to meet their needs. The Western/English Retail Association was born, with Alvin as its founding chairman for three years.
And there are so many other ways Alvin supported, mentored and sustained the western heritage. He announced rodeos, including the NIRA Finals twice and the AJRA Finals. He spent thirteen years as director of the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech. He made many appearances as a cowboy poet, writing a poetry book and a children’s book (“A Day in the Life of a Cowboy”). He was a junior 4-H leader for years and often did the work of the county agent, when there was none. He is the only 4-H member to be inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame, and in 2010, the newly formed National 4-H Hall of Fame. He and his family raised and showed horses, owning and showing the World Reserve Appaloosa Cutting horse that topped the 1963 sale with a price of $8,300. He also owned a third place world calf roping horse and a national champion two year old halter stallion.
When his future wife, Barbara Ann Hext, graduated from Texas Tech and moved to Brownfield to teach home-ec, he was waiting on her doorstep. The couple has been married for 59 years and have three children: Bob, who is married to Lee and works for a petroleum company in Houston, Debbie Garland, married to Mike and working as a banker in Jacksonville, Fla., and Todd, who is married to Lena and works for an education center in Lubbock. He and Barbara have four grandchildren.
Looking back over his years, he’s most proud of all the things western he’s done, to keep the heritage going. His boundless energy and ability to organize have served him well. He is in his eighth decade but going strong: “I tell everybody I’m 86 years young, and except for using a cane to get around, I’m still in good enough physical condition to work day and night. “I thank the Lord that He’s allowed me to be able to do these kinds of things.”