Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo Announces Hall of Fame Inductees
Commemorating a history that has spanned 75 years, the Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo held its inaugural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 5 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, in the Chalkley Room of Burton Coliseum.
“The Board of Governors wanted to recognize individuals who contributed to the development of the largest district junior livestock show in Louisiana and the first show to concentrate on scholarships for exhibitors to further their education,” said Jerry Whatley, board member and chairman of the Hall of Fame committee.
A selection committee, which also included Jeff Faulk, Dr. Craig Fontenot, Cody Hayes, Uland Guidry, Ronald Fruge, Brenda Shope, Kent LeDoux, Lee Manuel, and David Habetz, chose honorees whose forethought and diligent efforts were instrumental in creating a legacy of showmanship and scholarship.
Inductees into the Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo Hall of Fame for 2014 include:
Mr. J. C. “Jake” Barman was serving as County Agent in Jefferson Davis Parish when the first meeting to discuss the possibility of a state show was held. He and two other inductees met with state extension specialists to plan the very first show. During his affiliation with the Southwest District Livestock Show, Barman served as president, secretary, treasurer, auditor, and member of the Board of Governors. He also helped livestock exhibitors secure calves and taught them how to care for and exhibit their animals. The J. C. Barman Beef Scholarship is presented annually to the most outstanding beef exhibitor at the district show.
Mr. Joseph L. Baronet represented Acadia Parish as a member of the Board of Governors. At a time when funding for the show facilities was in peril, Baronet arranged for interim backing until more stable and permanent funds were secured. Baronet also worked tirelessly in developing scholarships and premiums for livestock exhibitors.
William Thomas “W.T.” Burton’s legacy to the district livestock show is named in his honor. Burton donated the land where the Burton Coliseum Complex is currently located so that the area’s young would always have a place to display their livestock projects. Burton served as a member of the Board of Governors, and was a leading supporter of the district sale. He purchased the champion steer of the very first show and continued to be a major supporter of the sale throughout his life. His family continues that support today.
Henry George “Harry” Chalkley, Jr., a community-minded supporter of youth in the area, was instrumental in coordinating the efforts of the community to get the Burton Coliseum built, serving as a liaison between W.T. Burton and the parish government. Chalkley led the effort to secure a local tax to fund the construction and maintenance of Burton Coliseum. He served as president and a member of the Board of Governors, and chaired the steer sale committee for many years. The Chalkley Room, which is the primary meeting room within Burton Coliseum, was named in his honor.
Charles “C.C.” Collet, who served as a county agent in Calcasieu Parish, attended the first meeting with extension specialists when the idea of a livestock show was born. While serving as county agent, Collet secured local support and recruited community leaders who contributed to the development of the district show. He served as manager for several of the early shows until becoming employed by Sweetlake Land & Oil Company. Collet’s work with area youth was reflected in his favorite expression: “Building a better world is not done by chart or plan. You start by teaching the boy to be a better man.”
Clifton J. Derouen was a local agriculture leader who worked tirelessly for the district livestock show. An active member of the Board of Governors for 54 years, Derouen served as president, chaired the sheep sales committee, and provided equipment to ready the grounds each year’s show. One of Derouen’s most treasured honors was being selected to serve as parade marshal for the district livestock show parade.
Arthur L. Gayle, Sr. also attended the first livestock show meeting to discuss the possibility of a state show. The Governor wanted the show to be held elsewhere, so Gayle leveraged the influence of the cattlemen of Southwest Louisiana. His efforts resulted in the district show and Lake Charles Junior College, which was later renamed John J. McNeese Junior College. Gayle provided important education to eradicate tick fever and was instrumental in securing the support of the state Cattleman’s Association for junior livestock shows. His service to the region resulted in more participation in the livestock shows and greater benefits to participants.
John E. Jackson was a 4-H Agent for Calcasieu Parish when the first show was held. As district show manager for many years, Jackson worked closely with the Board of Governors. His leadership provided much needed community and state support for the show and sale, and enabled the board to focus its support on scholarships and premiums. As a result of his efforts, the board named all showmanship scholarships in Jackson’s honor. Upon retirement, Jackson served as treasurer of the board and continued to work toward improving the facilities. He was responsible for the installation of the first camper sites at Burton Complex. The area that originally allowed 44 campers can now house more than 200.
The Honorable Glenn Conway LeBleu served as state representative for Cameron and parts of Calcasieu from 1964-1988. During his tenure, LeBleu secured vital funding when Burton Coliseum was in danger of closing. LeBleu’s efforts kept the coliseum open for several years until a local maintenance tax was passed, and he personally supported the show by donating prize money and awards for beef exhibitors.
Robert J. Marcantel, who represented Evangeline Parish on the Board of Governors for 16 years, served on the executive committee and the scholarship committee. Through his efforts, the board significantly increased the number and value of scholarships awarded. Marcantel also promoted the show and rodeo each year through local media and encouraged local youth to participate by endorsing the tremendous value the livestock show offered. Many exhibitors would not have participated without his help and encouragement.
Carroll H. McCall was County Agent in Cameron Parish when the first show was held. McCall served in various capacities and was instrumental in growing the show by encouraging the participation of Cameron and Calcasieu parish youth. McCall continued to support the show after he left the parish to open McCall Farm Supply, serving as president of the Board of Governors and chairman of the swine sales chairman for many years.
C. H. “Buddy” Unkel represented Allen Parish on the Board of Governors. During his years of service, Unkel held the office of president and vice president, and was a member of the executive committee. While serving as a member of the scholarship committee, he supported an increase in the number and value of scholarships awarded. Unkel’s term as president came at a time when attendance at the rodeo was declining, but his leadership saw the organization through to a period of regrowth and profitability.
L.G. “Louie” Wittler served on the Board of Governors from its inception until his death in 1974. After the McNeese Arena was completed, Wittler supervised the construction of the livestock and rodeo stock pens. He served as chairman of the grounds committee and was responsible for insuring that the McNeese facilities were prepared for exhibitors, their animals, the rodeo stock and the rodeo. Wittler spent countless hours personally making repairs throughout the grounds to ensure exhibitors, rodeo contestants and fans had a safe, prepped facility. Late in life, Wittler continued to make sure the facility was ready despite being confined to a wheelchair.
“These men had the forethought back in the 1930’s and 1940’s to see the need for something that would make a true impact on our community,” said Whatley. “They helped shape the lives of countless youth in our area that have grown up to be valuable members of society, who have learned that through hard work, valuable education, and perseverance anything is possible.”
For more information on the Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo Hall of Fame, call (337) 944-9710 or visit www.lakecharlesrodeo.com.