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Meet the Member Lonnie “Lonzo” Hall – 1969 NIRA Champion Bull Rider
by Don Reichert
Lonnie Hall was born in 1947 at Gettysburg, South Dakota and grew up on a ranch near Lebanon, South Dakota. He started college at South Dakota State University at Brookings, South Dakota in 1965 and didn’t like it. Lonnie’s parents said if he got good grades the first semester they would buy him a car. Second semester, he had a car and a horse trailer and a really good bay roping horse. “I fancied myself a calf roper, but couldn’t beat anybody!” A friend of his from McLaughlin, South Dakota was training horses at an indoor arena at Tea, South Dakota and he went there and roped calves and trained his horse. “Ernie Hamrick had little rodeos in that barn and I roped calves and rode bulls and broncs and kinda quit going to college.” After staying out of college for a year or so, he wanted to rodeo, work his way through the ranks, buy his card, and rodeo at Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeos. He visited Black Hills State College (now University) at Spearfish, South Dakota on a weekend and woke up on Saturday morning and thought to himself, “This is where I’m gonna be! So I did!” College rodeo kept him in school and made him make his grades and graduate with a degree in biology and physical education.
In 1969 at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, he drew stock contractor Floyd Rumford’s black bull, Airplane, who had been bucked for 9 years and never ridden. “I should have been scared to death of him, but I wasn’t. He was just another bull to me and I said ‘He’s never had me before’, so I rode him and won $700.” He received a standing ovation, Floyd Rumford congratulated him, and two little old ladies came out of the stands and congratulated him. “One of the judges, John McBeth, congratulated me and said ‘You are a bull riding SOB.’” That year, Lonnie won the bull riding at nearly every college rodeo in the region, won the region, the College National Finals Rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Bull Riding Championship. The saddle he won is on display at the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center at Ft. Pierre, South Dakota where he was honored as a Past Rodeo Great in 2002. He was inducted into the Black Hills State University Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2012.
Lonnie joined the PRCA in 1971 and rode bareback horses over the next 15+ years, winning at many of the major rodeos in the United States and Canada – Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake, Ogden, Cheyenne, Calgary, and Edmonton, traveling with Sandi Kirby, Joe Alexander, Tom Miller and others. Lonnie was the PRCA Badlands Circuit (North and South Dakota) Champion Bareback Rider in 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. Also in the mid to late 1970’s he earned his way into the National Finals Rodeo twice and placed 11th and 13th. Three other years Lonnie said, “I was in the crying hole, 16th place, and missed going to the finals by $25 one year and about $300 another year.” Lonnie’s favorite horse to ride was Little Dan, a horse that received bucking horse of the year honors about three times. He was fortunate to draw him four times and have three winning rides. “At the finals in the 10th round, Saturday night, TV night, guess who had Little Dan? Lonzo! Finally I can show the whole world what I can do! And about the 4th jump, he flattened me. He bucked me off and I had to pick my head up out of the dirt and walk back to the chutes.”
Lonnie and his wife Linda, married in 1967, were in the cattle and quarter horse business and now have an assisted living facility and raise quarter horses near Belle Fourche, South Dakota. They have four children and nine grandchildren around the country.
The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Alumni will celebrate its 28th anniversary by honoring all NIRA National Champions, Championship Teams, top finishers, Faculty and Student Presidents for the years ending in “9” including Lonnie, at the Annual NIRAA Reunion June 14-15, during the 2019 CNFR in Casper, Wyoming.