FORT WORTH, TEXAS, January 17, 2022 – For 75 years, members of what could be called the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show’s first family, developed and executed a game plan for successful livestock show management and professional rodeo production that made the Stock Show a household name in Fort Worth and beyond. That clan – the W.R. Watt family – will be recognized with the coveted Bill King Award for Excellence in Agriculture during the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo’s annual Livestock Appreciation Day Luncheon presented by Capital Farm Credit, January 20
Their impact began in 1946 when Amon Carter Sr. tapped W.R. Watt, to take the reins as Stock Show president. Despite his initial reluctance, “Billy Bob’s” business acumen soon began taking the Stock Show to new heights.
It was a crucial time. While the move in 1944 from the Stockyards to the Will Rogers Memorial Center brought excitement, it also presented challenges; the foremost being housing for a growing livestock show. In just two years, Billy Bob was helping oversee the construction of the iconic Swine, Sheep and Cattle Barns that are still in use today. Billy Bob also had a knack for entertainment and the rodeo personalities featured by the gifted promoter were Hollywood and Nashville royalty.
At his side was son, “Bob,” who began assisting his father when he wasn’t attending school or working on the family’s ranch near Throckmorton, Texas. Bob eventually assumed the dual post of board secretary and general manager in 1973. Upon his father’s death in 1977, Bob was named president and general manager.
The 1970s, 80s and 90s brought more excitement and growth. Entries expanded tremendously as did the various competitions and scholarships. With the help of Bob’s son, Trey, who served as assistant general manager for several years, programs like the popular Calf Scramble were added increasing opportunities for Texas 4-H and FFA members to compete for scholarship awards and growing auction receipts.
Bob’s leadership also ushered in the largest expansion of the Will Rogers Memorial Center to date. The complex underwent a tremendous transformation in the 80s and 90s with the construction of the Burnett Building, Richardson-Bass Building, Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall, Moncrief Building and the Will Rogers Memorial Center Ticket Office and Visitor Center. Bob was a driving force in creating the public-private funding model that’s today the envy of equestrian and livestock facility managers around the nation.
Bob also made his mark on the Stock Show’s rodeo. In 1978, 500 rodeo contestants competed for a $138,000 purse. By 2010, 1,287 rodeo contestants from 20 states and Canada vied for $594,000. Like his father, innovation for rodeo was also a hallmark of Bob’s career. He brought new and fresh concepts to fans wanting something more than traditional rodeo. Keeping the rodeo performances new and fresh was the goal with the addition of the Best of the West Ranch Rodeo, Best of Mexico Celebraciòn, Cowboys of Color Rodeo and Bulls Night Out Xtreme Bull Riding.
As President Emeritus of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, Bob continues to cast a long shadow across the Stock Show grounds. And, as long as there is a Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, the W.R. Watt Family legacy will never fade.
The Livestock Appreciation Day Luncheon is scheduled for Thursday at noon in the Round Up Inn at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall. Fred McClure, Executive Director of The Leadership Initiative at Texas A&M University will serve as the luncheon’s keynote speaker.