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Meet the Member Tony French
story by Kyle Eustice
ACRA judge Tony French was born in Fort Scott, Kans. and raised in Kansas City, Mo. until he was 14. Before his freshman year of high school, his parents, Ed and Mary Ann, decided to move back to Fort Scott, where he attended Fort Scott High School.
“I was a little upset at first,” said Tony. “Everyone is pretty friendly though and I made friends quickly.”
Tony’s dad used to ride when he was little and one day, he took him to a kid’s rodeo at a local fair.
“I was 13,” recalled Tony. “He let me get on a calf and I got bucked off. I was ready to go again. I immediately loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved the challenge of it.”
Tony learned to ride a bull and eventually realized it wasn’t about the rider. It was about having the skills to ride the bull, so he work on polishing them as often as he could. After attending Fort Scott Community College for a few years, he joined the ACRA and PRCA for the first time in 1978, but four years later, enlisted in the Army at 22-years-old.
“I started with the National Guard, but I didn’t like that,” said Tony. “I joined the Army and did that for 25 years.”
Luckily, he was able to participate in the Armed Forces Rodeo for over 10 years while in active duty. His events were saddle bronc riding and bull riding. He won the bull riding championship in the military one year, countless buckles and his son Nicholas still wears a buckle he won at the 1981 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association event. He vividly remembers his worst injury during his rodeo career.
“I jumped off a bull and there he was,” recalled Tony. “He hit me dead in the chest with his head. When I woke up, I was in the hospital; he had knocked me out immediately. I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital and get to the next rodeo.”
Now 56, Tony still loves rodeo and is back in the ACRA judging rodeo events as of 2011. He’s not the type of person who can sit around and do nothing. He appreciates everything the rodeo has given to him.
“When I was in PRCA, you get with the right group of guys, it’s not about them beating you,” said Tony. “It’s about riding and more about the personal challenge. We all helped each other.”
Tony lives in Fort Scott and works for the family business, Ed French Plumbing and Heating. His mother Mary Ann is the secretary for the shop, and both he and his father provide plumbing and heating services to their community.
Tony is married to his wife of 27 years, Patsy, and has three children—Jessica, 31, Rachel, 26, and Nicholas, 19. In his free time, he likes to fish in bass tournaments. While he’s on the ACRA judges list, he doesn’t judge as much as he used to.
“I still have fun,” said Tony. “I always enjoy doing it. I am happy with how my career went over the years.”