courtesy of Don Reichert Additional honorees at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Alumni, Inc. (NIRAA) Reunion held in June were Brad Gjermundson, Dean Wang, Jesse […]
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Meet the Member Martha Thompkins- Jordan
story by Merrill Ellis
For most children, who have notable sports figures as fathers it is sometimes difficult to follow in their footsteps. However, this was not so for Martha Thompkins Jordan daughter of eight times rodeo world champion, Harry Thompkins.
She explained, “He set a standard in the arena with all of his championships that would have been hard to surpass but he instilled in me the desire to win, to never give up trying to be the best I could be, regardless of what it was I was doing. That lives on in me today.”
Not only has Martha excelled in the rodeo arena as a world class barrel racer, she is also an avid supporter and board member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Alumni (NIRAA). Consequently, the NIRAA recently named her the 2020 NIRAA Contributor of the Year.
If the 2020 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) would have taken place, each of the winners of the barrel racing go rounds and the barrel racing rookie of the year would have received a $500 scholarship given by Martha. So, in 2021, these scholarships will be awarded when the CNFR takes place.
“I hope my contribution to the NIRAA Scholarship fund encourages and allows a college student to achieve their dream and passion,’ stated Martha. “I think the scholarship fund is key and in some instances helps in furthering the education of young men and women who also love to rodeo.”
Martha attended college at both Tarleton State University (TSU) (College, when she was there) and Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. She graduated from Tarleton in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and a certification in Medical Technology.
Martha was an outstanding college rodeo athlete capturing the NIRA Southwest Region Barrel Racing Championship in 1971 and ’72. She was also crowned the CNFR Barrel Racing Champion in 71 and the NIRA Barrel Racing Champion the same year. Like most NIRA Champions, she aided her TSU Women’s Team to the National Championship in ’71. In ’72 she attended ENMU and was a member of the NIRA Champion Women’s Team there as well.
The 1971 Tarleton State University NIRA Champion Women’s Team would have been honored and inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboys Hall of Fame in Fort Worth in April. However, due to Covid-19 the induction ceremonies had to be canceled and will be rescheduled in April of 2021. Martha and her dad, Harry have been inducted into this hall of fame previously.
Martha’s achievements did not stop in the collegiate rodeo arena. She competed in the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) and in 1971 claimed the GRA (WPRA) Rookie Of The Year honors. She also qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in ’71 winning six go rounds and placing in three others. Consequently, she won the most money at the NFR in the barrel racing that year.
This past year at the NFR, I asked Martha why she did not win the average in ’71? In her own unselfish, kind voice she stated, “Because my horse and I decided we wanted to turn a barrel early on one go round.”
Her winning ways on the professional level continued for eight years as she qualified for the GRA Texas Circuit Finals and was the year end champion in 1989.
Two distinguished awards are given to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of two deserving individuals at the Rodeo Hall of Fame Weekend each year at the National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
One is the Tad Lucas Award given to women who have exhibited the same sort of spirit, courage, and passion of the award’s namesake, while upholding and promoting our great Western Heritage. For her outstanding contributions to women’s rodeo sport, Martha Wright received the Tad Lucas Memorial Award in 2000. It was a special award because her father was in attendance during the ceremony.
“My dad accompanied myself and one of my good friends to Oklahoma City that year and regaled us with all kinds of rodeo stories on the trip up and back. Wish I had had a recorder for the occasion. He was certainly entertaining!” Stated
Since 1978, she and her deceased husband, Ed Wright, have specialized in training champion barrel horses at their Slash W Ranch in Stephenville, Texas. Through the 1980s and 1990s, they built an impressive record of victories at major barrel racing futurities around the country. They also assembled a multi-faceted breeding and training program for barrel horses that includes sales, private lessons and custom equipment, as well as clinics across the country and their book, Barrel Racing: Training the Wright Way.
A few years ago Martha and Larry Jordan began a new journey in life. The two met on the rodeo trail when Larry was competing on the PRCA circuit in saddle bronc riding.
Yearly, Martha and Larry host the World of Rodeo Reunion and Gold Card Gathering at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The event is one to attend during the NFR to meet up with former collegiate and professional rodeo athletes.
Martha still resides at the Slash W Ranch and has continued the legacy of the Wright Way. Her web site is: https://www.slashwranch.com.