J. W. Stoker

Gerlach Brothers Road Ranch & Store

J.W. Stoker was born on the Stoker Ranch in September of 1927 near Colorado Springs , Colorado . Four years later the Stoker family moved to Overland Park , Kansas where they were raised and attended school. J.W. had two younger sisters, Frankie Louise and Bessie Mae. The three Stoker children's interest in trick riding and roping was sparked by the Tom Mix Circus performance in Kansas City , Missouri their grandfather took them to see.

J.W. was a member of several riding clubs where he learned to trick rope and ride from Pinky Barnes who traveled to Kansas City in the winter of 1938 to teach kids how to rope. Pinky was a wild west show and rodeo hand who frequently worked in the movies. From that point on J.W. knew he wanted to be a trick rider and roper and practiced everyday for hours. He even took his rope to school to practice during lunch. In the Spring of 1939, J.W. was hired by the Clyde S. Miller Rodeo Show as a young trick roper. In addition to hiring J.W., Miller also hired both of J.W.'s parents to help with the show.

At the age of 10, J.W. and the Stoker family went on the road. J.W.'s father drove a truck and hauled and set up chutes. His mother worked in the cook tent and was the “wardrobe mistress”. By that July, Frankie joined J.W.'s act. It was truly a family affair. At the age of 12, he appeared on the Wheaties box as juvenile champion trick rider.

J.W. turned pro in 1942. He rodeoed steadily except during his military service in World War II and the Korean War. J.W. was with the Soldier Show Section of Special Forces where he entertained troops. Upon his discharge from the service in 1953, he went on the road performing with black lights. This use of invisible ultraviolet lights was the first such use in professional rodeo. His talents of trick riding, black light rope spinning and fancy horse catches have been witnessed in many other countries including, Japan, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Korea, Australia and Venezuela .

He was a stunt double in the motion picture Bronco Billy for Sam Bottoms , began his 1988 season performing at the Calgary Olympics Rodeo , and was a featured guest on The Today Show and the Charlie Rose Show in 1990. J.W. broke tradition by being honored two consecutive years (1985 & 1986) by the prestigious Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as entertainer of the year. He was also inducted into the National Cowboys Hall of Fame in 1999. As quoted in “Paint Horse Journal” in March 1980, J.W. said, “It's a dying art”, “I predicted it in the 1940's and people told me I was crazy, but I've seen it come true.”

Stoker lives on a twenty-five acre spread near Weatherford, Texas where he spends his off season training his show horses for his acts. His wardrobe includes over 100 fancy fringed-rhinestone shirts, seventy-five pairs of handmade boots and twenty-five western hats. As recent as December 2003, J.W. entertained at The Great American Wild West show in Las Vegas and appeared in American Cowboy.  Most recently, on July 16, 2011, J.W. was inducted iinto the 2011 class of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs, Colorado for his years of trick riding and roping.