SWTJC Rodeo & Rodeo Program
courtesy of SWTJC Rodeo Alumni As Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, Texas celebrates their 60th Anniversary as a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) team, […]
story by Don Reichert
Tom Miller is most famous for his saddle bronc riding prowess, but when he was younger, he was a fierce competitor in other rough stock events and in timed events, as evidenced by his National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association wins.
Miller rodeoed for Black Hills State College (now University) and was 5th in the bull riding and 3rd in the all-around in NIRA standings in 1969. 50 years ago, in 1970, Tom was the NIRA’s All-Around Champion, the first of his two all-around championships. He also placed 3rd in the bareback riding, again showing his versatility. His second NIRA All Around Championship was won in 1971. He placed 4th in the bareback riding that year. Tom will be honored at the 29th Annual NIRA Alumni, Inc. Reunion in June at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.
When asked what events he worked in high school, Tom said, “Everything!” He added “Everything except bulls. My mother wouldn’t let me ride any bulls until I got out of high school!” He made it to the National High School Finals a couple of times but didn’t win any championships.
In 1969, Tom was 2nd in the bareback riding, won the saddle bronc riding and the won the all-around in the South Dakota Rodeo Association. Bud Day and Pete Longbrake, Dupree, South Dakota, many time SDRA Champions, encouraged Tom when he was rodeoing in the SDRA. “Dennis Hintz (who won numerous SDRA Bareback Riding Championships) helped me some because he worked for us some at the ranch and he was riding barebacks and my brother John was riding broncs. When I got going more, Ralph Maynard helped me quite a little.”
Tom credits John McBeth and his bronc riding school for “getting me doing things I didn’t know I could do when riding broncs.” Tom went on to win the PRCA Badlands Circuit Saddle Bronc Riding Championship four times in 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980. He competed at the PRCA National Finals Rodeo 6 times and shares the record for winning the average three times. He missed winning the PRCA Saddle Bronc Championship by $5.28 in 1981. Big rodeos Tom won that stand out in his mind are Salinas, California and Phoenix, Arizona. When asked if he ever won Cheyenne he said, “Nah, I never did win it. I probably could of one time, but they got me at the gate in the short go. I only marked him out for three jumps. I don’t know how much more I could have done.”
Tom reminisced, “College was the foundation for Pro Rodeo for me. I have some of the longest lasting friends that I got from college rodeo. Lonnie Hall and Cliff Glade and guys that I rodeoed with back then. I got to know a lot of the contractors in college like Reg Kesler and spent 3 or 4 years on the PRCA rules committee with him and got to know Harry Vold. There were some long-lasting friendships that came out of college rodeo. There were some great college rodeo advisors like the one at Brookings (South Dakota State University), Dr. H.L. Hutchinson. I liked him. And Dr. Dick Cummings at Black Hills State University.”
JP ‘Bub’ Miller, Tom’s dad, was his biggest influence in life. “He was my best friend and financial advisor for years. He said it don’t matter what you do but do it well!” ‘Bub’ was still giving him advice until he died at 85 years of age.
Tom and his wife, Vivian, have a cattle and horse ranch near Red Owl, South Dakota and their sons live in Texas, Jeff on a family ranch and Ryan works for an oil company. Tom and Vivian have three granddaughters.
Vivian and Tom are anticipating attending the 29th annual NIRA Alumni Reunion on June 19, 2020 during the NIRA CNFR at Casper, Wyoming. The reunion starts at the Ramkota Inn at 9 am on Friday. Honorees will be introduced during the Friday evening CNFR performance and the reunion concludes with the NIRA Foundation Luncheon on Saturday.
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