Everett Colborn’s Career, Family, and the Lightning C Ranch

Everett Colborn

Everett E. Colborn was born July 26, 1892 in De Lamar, Idaho. He grew up on a ranch and was familiar with and enjoyed all aspects of the cattle business. In time he became a roper of skill and entered many rodeos in that event. Finally moving into the business of furnishing livestock for area shows, he produced rodeos in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In 1931, he entered into an agreement with Colonel W.T. Johnson, rodeo producer from San Antonio, to furnish a carload of top bucking horses each fall for the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. Colborn worked first as a judge, later as an arena director at the Garden rodeos.

In 1937, Everett, along with Harry Knight and a group of Arizona businessmen, purchased the rodeo from Colonel Johnson. Colborn came to Texas in 1937 looking for a ranch large enough to hold his newly purchased rodeo company of Madison Square Garden fame. He finds a ranch fourteen miles southeast of Dublin and calls it the Lightning C Ranch. The Lightning C Ranch became the largest ranch dedicated to rodeo stock in the world. Colborn leases a 24-car train to move his rodeo company to New York, Boston, and other larger rodeo venues and drives his stock into Dublin by horseback. Realizing the potential investment in 1939, several Dublin businessmen partnered with Colborn to start a rodeo in Dublin.

In April of 1940, Dublin held its first performance of Colborn’s World’s Championship Rodeo at the city park where Gene Autry attends for the first time. Later in September 1940, 20th Century Fox films a movie-tone newsreel of the round up at the Lightning C Ranch driving of the stock into Dublin and loading the rodeo train. This film was shown overseas during World War ll. By 1942, Gene Autry becomes partners and merges his rodeo, “Flying A Ranch Rodeo” with Everett Colborn’s “World’s Championship Rodeo” and becomes one of the biggest and best rodeos of all time. In the following twenty-two years, Colborn continued to produce the rodeo at Madison Square Garden as well as top rodeos in other parts of the nation.

Everett Colborn was a superb showman and the quality of the shows he produced added much to the prestige of rodeo. He sold his interest in the rodeo to Gene Autry in 1960 and returned to the cattle business. He died March 20, 1972 at his home in Dublin, Texas.

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Colborn’s Family

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Area 3-Colborn’s Career & Family

Area 3-Wall 2-Table-Colborn’s work Chaps
On the table under Colborn Career photos is a copy of the magazine, Western Horseman where
an article is written on the World’s Championship Rodeo and New York Rodeo. Also on the
table is a copy of Texas Highways where a photo of Carolyn Colborn is on Western Horseman
cover. Beside the table on the right is Everett Colborn’s Lightning C work chaps. The chaps look
well used and has splatters on them that prove Colborn was a working manager.

Area 3-Wall 3-Rosemary Colborn
On the left side of this wall is the actual metal medallion with the Lightning C brand that hung
on the Lightning C ranch gate. On the right side is the medallion for his private ranch brand that
hung of the gate on his private ranch. In the center of this wall, Everett Colborn holding
Rosemary as a baby that was taken in Idaho. Over to the left is a family photo in the early 50’s
of Rosemary with her new husband, Harry Tompkins, Everett, and Carolyn on horses. I say “this
is the oldest daughter of Everett Colborn, Rosemary, where she ends up marrying 8 times world
champion Harry Tompkins. A photo of Carolyn and Rosemary as young children is on the wall at
the top of the photos and a photo of Rosemary sitting on a horse as a young girl is autographed
“to my Pal and Dad.” The rest are single photos of Rosemary.
Area 3 Wall 1-Carolyn Colborn
I say this is the Colborn’s youngest daughter, Carolyn. She became a celebrity because she was
seen around New York with Everett Colborn and Gene Autry. She once told me that she had
lunch with Elvis Presley to enhance his career because he wasn’t famous at that time. I ask what
was he like and she said, “Oh, he’s just a shy boy”. In the middle of the wall is a large colored
photo of Carolyn on “Western Horseman Magazine”. I say she was the first lady on The
Western Horseman Magazine and has been on other magazine covers. She also modeled
western wear and I show photos of her modeling a western suit, then turn to the corner to
show the western suit dressed on a mannequin that Carolyn is wearing. Up a little higher is a
photo of her when she was about 6 years old riding in the Boston parade with Roy Rogers and a
little below is a photo of her with her horse, Omar in a buggy with Everett Colborn standing by.
I say “we have a copy of a letter from Everett Colborn to Gene Autry asking for his horse,
Champion’s son for his daughter’s 16 th birthday. This is the picture of the horse she received
from Gene Autry. Then I say Gene Autry produced TV shows including the Gene Autry Show.
Gene Autry also produced Range Rider starring Jock Mahoney, here is a photo with Carolyn,
Jock Mahoney and his side kick Dick West. Here is another photo of Carolyn and Gail Davis who
starred in the Annie Oakly TV Show Gene Autry produced. Over to the left of the wall is a photo
of Carolyn and a young Martha Tompkins that’s about 3 or 4 years old with Everett Colborn’s
huge attaché made of 2 layers of leather that feature Everett Colborn on a horse with flower
trim around the case. Other photos are of Carolyn and Berva Dawn Taylor (daughter of
Colborn’s 1 st partner, Doc Sorenson. One photo is of Carolyn and Everett Colborn showing his
off silver saddle that he rode in the parades.
Area 3-Wall 1-Carolyn Colborn
Just below the photos on the left of Carolyn’s wall is Everett Colborn’s work saddle.