“The [aptitude] test told me I could be anything I wanted, so I became a cowboy!”
Harley Dean Gilbert was born on June 7, 1934 in Busby, Kansas to Harley “Ermine” and Kathryn “Iris” Gilbert. He was the younger of two children, his sister Mary being born two years before. His parents ran a Hereford calf-cow operation and farmed hay and grains. Harley attended grade school in Busby. When he was 10 he began breaking horses, starting with one he had raised from its birth. Throughout his youth he broke many more horses and a few Brahma bulls. He graduated from nearby Longton High School in 1952. Though his parents wanted him to stay on the ranch, his dream was to ride bulls. A compromise was reached when he agreed to stay on the ranch during planting and harvest. He became friends with many rodeo greats while commuting to and from rodeos. In 1959, he started riding bulls for the RCA (now PRCA) competing in 13 States. He placed first at Nixa, MO; Ponca City, OK; Strong City, KS; Copan, OK; Burwell, NE; Kankakee, IL; Miami, OK; Huntington, WV; Davenport, IA; Burden, KS and Wichita, KS. He was listed as one of the top 15 bull riders in 1963. For several years, he worked with 2010 Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee, Sonny Worrell for Harry Knight, owner of the Flying A, as a pickup man. In addition to bull riding, Harley did some steer wrestling and roping. He placed first in steer wrestling in Great Bend, KS and Burden, KS. On November 15, 1966, he married Patty Jo Morris and they raised three children, Gerald “Jerry” Gilbert, Clinton “Clint” Gilbert and Tamberly “Tammy” Baker, in Busby. They have 10 grandchildren. In 1969, when his father died, Harley took over the ranch, but continued to rodeo professionally until 1974. After that, he competed in “old timers” events and reunions, and judged amateur and PRCA events. Harley is a PRCA Gold Card holder and has memberships in the American Quarter Horse Association, Kansas Thoroughbred Association and Kansas Quarter Horse Association. He is a licensed trainer for both Kansas and Oklahoma, and has been in the winners’ circle numerous times in horse races in both States. Though not currently licensed in Nebraska, he has won several races in that State. In 2009, the Kansas Thoroughbred Association awarded him Aged Horse of the Year for “Grand On Affair.” Harley is currently semi-retired working as an oil and gas consultant and lives near Fredonia, Kansas. Harley continues to ride horses to this day.
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame connection: Harley Gilbert worked with Sonny Worrell, 2010 Rodeo Cowboy, as a pickup man.
Year inducted: 2015