B.J. Pierce, a life-long resident of Clovis, left town for on his final journey on December 26, 2019 at 93 years old. Born on August 22, 1926, to Grady and Deloise Pierce, he was raised on a farm in Pleasant Hill, until his family moved back to town during his high school years. Inspired by the tales told by his grandfather Jernigan, a cowboy from Oklahoma, B.J. was more passionate about roping than anything else. With high school and college rodeo yet to be created, he taught himself to rope calves, winning his first rodeo in Tucumcari, N.M. in 1945.
After graduating high school the same year, B.J. started to compete professionally as a calf roper. On weekends he would travel to Bob Crosby’s ranch to rope. B.J. also played baseball and basketball and received a basketball scholarship to play in college at Eastern New Mexico University. His winnings were enough for he and Patty to finish their college educations at ENMU, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and later a Master’s in Education. B.J. and Patty had two children, Ben and Rena.
B.J. graduated from ENMU in 1950 and immediately began rodeoing full time, frequently announced as one of only two full-time rodeo cowboys in the region that had college degrees. Though B.J. also competed in wild cow milking, team roping, and steer roping, calf roping (or tie-down roping) was his main event. He even served on the RCA Board of Directors as the Calf Roping Director. He competed in the RCA and won the tie-down roping – often more than once – in rodeos across the Pacific West like the Pendleton Round-Up, Cow Palace, Lewiston, Walla Walla (WA), Santa Maria (CA), Cheyenne and Lethbridge, (Canada). He won Ellensburg (WA) three times. Other major wins were Los Angeles, Salinas, Denver, Chicago and Tucson. He placed in Calgary, Madison Square Garden, Boston, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Havana (Cuba) and too many more to list.
By the early 1960s, B.J. was ready to hang up his rope. He "retired" from the rodeo business and started teaching school at Highland Elementary in Clovis. His plan was to teach one year in sixth grade, but he ended up staying 31 years in the school system. B.J. was a teacher for 16 of those 31 years before moving to administration and becoming a principal. He worked at several schools in Clovis, including Highland Elementary as a sixth grade teacher, and at Lincoln Jackson and James Bickley Elementary School where he was the principal.
In 1976, B.J married his second wife, Sue Pierce, neé Piehl and adopted Sue's son John to raise as his own. They were married for 31 years, until Sue's untimely death in 2008, and during much of that time, B.J. continued to teach, while training calf horses for ropers all over the region. He was also known to get in a round of golf every now and then.
B.J. has also been a member of the Curry County Mounted Patrol for many years, serving as the organization’s captain, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. In 2015 he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame; B.J. also attended the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton Round-Up as a guest of honor in 2010.
B.J. loved his life in Clovis almost as much as he loved to flirt with the girls and spin tales of his charmed life. He outlived almost everyone he knew, but his greatest talent was to make new friends. He is survived by his sons Ben G. Pierce, and John Pierce. While his daughter, Rena, survived him, she regretfully passed away a week after him.
He will be missed. But his is a life to be celebrated and envied, not mourned.