Unveiling of George Fletcher Bronze

Release Date: 

The unveiling of the bronze by sculpture Jerry Warner will be at 2:15pm on Thursday, August 7th in the 300 block of Main Street.  The community is invited to join in the unveiling.

George Fletcher was a black cowboy who lived most of his life in the Pendleton area. He emigrated to Oregon from Kansas with his family at the turn of the century, when there were only about five African-American families living in Eastern Oregon. After being discriminated against in white schools, Fletcher elected to live on the Umatilla Indian Reservation instead, where he learned how to ride horses. He was the first black person to compete in the Pendleton Round-up, and is well-known for the controversy surrounding the 1911 round-up saddle bronc finals.

Those finals came down to three cowboys; John Spain, a white man; Jackson Sundown, a Native American; and Fletcher. It was widely believed that Fletcher had the best run of the three competitors, but he was denied first place by the judges because of the color of his skin.. Spain, the only white competitor in the finals, took first.

 It is said, the crowd that day was livid with the rodeo ruling, the majority believing Fletcher was the rightful winner. The Pendleton sheriff at the time, Til Taylor, was so unhappy with the decision that he took Fletcher’s hat, ripped it up into pieces and sold the pieces to the crowd for $5 each. The $700 he raised went to Fletcher so he could buy the same saddle that was awarded to Spain for finishing first. 

Pendleton is honoring George Fletcher with a bronze being placed in historical downtown Pendleton.