W.R. Watt family receives Bill King Award at Stock Show event

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The W.R. Watt family, which led the way in making the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo the legendary event it has become, was recognized with the coveted Bill King Award for Excellence in Agriculture during the FWSSR’s annual Livestock Appreciation Day Luncheon.

The luncheon was held Jan. 20 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, was keynote speaker.

Heading up the Watt family contingent on hand to accept the award was W.R. “Bob” Watt Jr., longtime president and general manager of the Stock Show and Rodeo. Bob Watt spearheaded many of the improvements and innovations that have become hallmarks of the annual event.

“Honoring the Watt family at this year’s Livestock Appreciation Day Luncheon was the highlight of this year’s Stock Show for many of us who have worked alongside Bob Watt,” said FWSSR communications manager Matt Brockman. “The long standing ovation [he received] reflected the admiration and love that so many people have for this amazing family and what they’ve done to take the Stock Show to lofty heights. As long as there’s a Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, the W.R. Watt family legacy will never fade.”

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Brad Barnes, who succeeded Bob Watt as president and general manager of the Stock Show & Rodeo when Watt retired in 2010, said honoring the W.R. Watt family with the Bill King Award “was long overdue.”

“Bob Watt has been the steady influence that guided and inspired us all to give our very best to the Stock Show,” Barnes added. “I couldn’t have had a better mentor as a volunteer, board member and in my role as president and general manager.”

The Watt family’s impact began in 1946 when Amon Carter Sr. tapped W.R. Watt Sr. (who chose to go by the name Billy Bob), to take the reins as Stock Show president. Despite his initial reluctance, Watt’s business acumen soon began taking the Stock Show to new heights.

While the move in 1944 from the Stockyards to the Will Rogers Memorial Center brought excitement, it also presented challenges. Watt met these head-on, helping oversee construction of the iconic swine, sheep and cattle barns that are still in use today. He also had a knack for entertainment, and the rodeo personalities he helped bring to town included Hollywood and Nashville royalty.

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His son, W. R. “Bob” Watt, began assisting Billy Bob and 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. Bob’s son, Trey, came onboard and served as assistant general manager for several years as programs such as the popular calf scramble were added, along with increased 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 construction of the Burnett Building, Richardson-Bass Building, Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall, the Moncrief Building and the Will Rogers Memorial Center Ticket Office and Visitor Center.

Bob Watt was a driving force in creating the public-private funding model that today is the envy of equestrian and livestock facility managers around the nation.

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Watt 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 were competing for $594,000.

Like his father, Bob constantly sought innovation and brought fresh concepts to the rodeo. Key additions on his watch included the Best of the West Ranch Rodeo, Best of Mexico Celebraciòn, the Cowboys of Color Rodeo and Bulls Night Out Xtreme Bull Riding.

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