Lee Younger Cockrell, who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo nine times as a tie-down roper and won the 1966 NFR average title, died Nov. 19 at the Presbyterian Manor in Lawrence, Kan. He was 77.
Cockrell grew up on his grandparents’ O.H. Ingrum Ranch east of Pampa, Texas, where he learned the cowboy skills that led him to a successful career as a high school, college and professional tie-down roping champion.
He won the College National Finals Rodeo tie-down roping title in 1954, capping an unbeaten season at Hardin-Simmons University, and established himself as one of the event’s most consistent performers over a 15-year span in the Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Cockrell qualified for the inaugural NFR in 1959 – where he won Round 10 in 11.3 seconds, the fastest time of the rodeo – and took part eight more times in 1963-68, 1972 and 1974.
In 1966, he placed in four rounds on his way to winning the NFR average with a cumulative time of 124.5 seconds on eight head in Oklahoma City, beating runner-up Junior Garrison by more than five seconds.
Cockrell was the only tie-down roper in the 1960s to win the so-called Grand Slam of that era – rodeos at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede and the Grand National in San Francisco.
At the Greeley (Colo.) Stampede, the largest of all July 4th rodeos, Cockrell won nine roping championships from 1958-69 on eight different horses.
He continued competing in roping contests in over-45 Senior Rodeo Association events, and in 1993, at the age of 60, Lee averaged 9.7 seconds over four rounds to win the Legends of Rodeo National Finals.
In 1991, Cockrell was the first rodeo champion to be inducted into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame in Amarillo, Texas.
In addition to his record-breaking rodeo career, Cockrell was a successful farmer and businessman, operating Lee Y. Cockrell Enterprises on I-40 East in Amarillo, Texas, where he ran a Western store, held match ropings, conducted roping schools and manufactured rodeo equipment. Cockrell trained some of the most famous roping horses used by other tie-down roping greats, like Dean Oliver and Glen Franklin.
Cockrell was preceded in death by mother Alice Ingrum Gray, stepfather Holly Gray and his first daughter, Teresa Lee Cockrell. He is survived by daughters, Trena Sue Cockrell-Santee of Lawrence Kan., and Lara Lee Cockrell-Larson of Honolulu; and three grandsons, Edward Weston Santee, Hollis Ingrum Santee and Chase Crawford.
A cremation is planned. A memorial service and burial will be held in Pampa, Texas, with a date to be announced soon.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation and sent in care of Lawrence Chapel Oaks, 3821 W. 6th Street, Lawrence, KS 66049.
Online condolences may be made at www.barnettchapeloaks.com.