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, […]
By Sylvia Mahoney
Charles Davis (Charlie) Rankin died Friday, January 8, 2016, at his home in Boerne, Texas, from the effects of emphysema. He was 90 years old.
Back in 1948, Charlie was a veteran of World War II, a student at Texas A&M, a natural organizer and he enjoyed the sport of rodeo, especially saddle bronc riding. He sent out letters to rodeo clubs and ag departments around the western states and rounded up a group of like minded cowboys and they met and started a college rodeo organization, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. This was a student led organization, begun on a shoe string, led by young men who were full time students, wedging rodeo competition and the management of a rodeo organization into their school schedules. The odds were all against the NIRA surviving even a couple of seasons much less sixty-eight years! That it did survive and thrive is due to the forethought, wisdom, planning, and determination of those determined young men, not the least of them being Charlie Rankin. He remembered staying up all night with a committee writing the by-laws for this new organization using the FFA by-laws as template!
Charlie said the need for a national organization to govern college rodeo was apparent to him and to fellow cowboys. So, on January 30, 1949, the NIRA– the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association was established, with Rankin elected the first student president. The NIRA was student-created and led, and it is still the college rodeo governing body today.
After graduating at Texas A & M, Charlie became the first NIRA Executive Manager, keeping the records in his dorm room,a job he held only months before he was called back into service during the Korean War
Born June 2, 1925, to Winnie Lee (Davis) and Charles Duncan Rankin in Dallas, Texas, he was graduated from high school there in 1943. He enlisted in the navy and served as a boiler tender on the USS Takanis Bay (CVE-89). His ship was one of the first to dock at postwar Japan, and they brought back hundreds of American soldiers who had fought the Japanese. The Takanis Bay was one of those smaller carriers which the United States made by the dozens during the war.
After mustering out of the Navy in late 1945, he headed to College Station and Texas A & M College, where he was graduated with an animal husbandry degree in January 1950, complements of the G.I. Bill. His real love, though, was rodeo, and he was a member of the Aggie rodeo team. He said he paid for his ‘extras’ at college by winning a ‘purse’ at the rodeos. While at A & M Charlie met Sue Evelyn Moore at the Bandera Stompede, courted her, and married her on September 21, 1950.
Charlie said the need for a national organization to govern college rodeo was apparent to him and to fellow cowboys. So, on January 30, 1949, the NIRA– the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association was established, with Rankin elected the first student president. The NIRA was student-created and led, and it is still the college rodeo governing body today. –
After graduating at Texas A & M, Charlie became the first NIRA Executive Manager, a job he held only months before he was called back into service during the Korean War.
After Korea, he worked in Eden, in West Texas, as an agent for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. After awhile, he tried his hand at selling insurance in Dallas, but realized that was not for him. He started doing a program of agricultural news and markets on WACO Radio, in Waco. The owners of KRGV Radio in Weslaco offered him a job as farm broadcaster not long after, and he moved his family to the Rio Grande Valley.
Charlie started doing an early morning radio program on KRGV. KRGV then added a noontime radio and television program, and the Charlie Rankin farm program was heard and seen in many Valley homes.
He continued at KRGV until leaving in 1967 to form his own company, Voice of Valley Agriculture, and his early and noonday farm reports continued on KURV Radio in Edinburg, KBOR Radio in Brownsville and eventually KELT-FM in Harlingen. In 1984, Charlie and other investors bought KURV Radio from Lloyd Hawkins and he operated the station and did his farm program until retiring in 1990. He also partnered with June Brann to start South Texas AgriNEWS and wrote a column entitled ‘Behind the Chutes.’
Charlie never lost his interest in rodeo, helping organize the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Alumni Association and was elected 2007 NIRA Alumnus of the Year, something of which he was very proud. He garnered many awards in the agriculture community, both in the Valley and statewide, over the years..
Not only was Charlie a broadcaster and a citrus farmer, he was something of an amateur historian, at least as South Texas history was concerned. From 1978 to 1984 he served on the Hidalgo County Historical Commission and was on the board of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum (now the Museum of South Texas History) 1982 to 1989. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Texas Ranger Association Foundation in Waco.
“Charlie Rankin was the biggest supporter the Texas Aggie Rodeo Team has ever had. He never forgot about us and was always willing to help.” That praise from Dr. Al Wagner, the Aggie Rodeo Team sponsor sums up Charlie;s love of the sport. He was All-Around Cowboy at the 1947 Aggie rodeo, champion bareback bronc rider at the 1st NIRA Texas A&I rodeo in Kingsville in 1949 and was a Texas A&M team member at the 1st College National Finals rodeo at the San Francisco Cow Palace in 1949.
In 1985, wife Sue died of pancreatic cancer, and in 1988 Charlie married a high school friend,
Billie Marie Tolbirt. Billie made Charlie very happy and she continues to live at Morningside Ministries
He is survived by a daughter, Susan, of Dallas, and granddaughter, Alexandra Amanda; a son, Davis Rankin and wife Shan, grandsons Marshall and Duncan; step daughter Gayle Tolbirt Eason and husband Bill; stepson Randall Tolbirt and wife Tannah. He is also survived by grandchildren Tod Eason, Christine Eason Raymond and husband Chris Raymond, Tammy Tolbirt and Shana Tolbirt. His great grandchildren are Jordan Gonzales, Logan Gonzales, Avery Falcon, Trenton Falcon, Jackson Ames, Jack Raymond and Lily Eason.
Those wishing to honor his memory may make a donation to The Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH), 200 N. Closner Blvd., Edinburg, Texas, 78541; Texas Aggie Rodeo, P.O. Box 12074, College Station, Texas, 77842, Morningside Ministries Covenant Fund, 700 Babcock, San Antonio, Texas, 78201, or NIRA Alumni
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