Remembering a Tucson Rodeo legend: Gary Williams dies at 73

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 10:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson Rodeo icon, Gary Williams passed away Sunday at 73 surrounded by his friends and family.

Williams was the first general manager for the Tucson Rodeo. He was known across the nation for his contributions to the sport and how he helped make the Tucson Rodeo a success.

″Gary was a teacher, a historian, and just a great overall friend of mine. He saw something in me that this is where I’m at today,” said Tucson Rodeo Chairman Jose Calderon.

He first became friends with Williams back in 2006. Over more than a decade of friendship, they had a lot of fond memories together, especially at the rodeo. Calderon says the thing he’ll miss the most about Williams is his teaching.

“I used to tell him every time we’d get done talking about something or sharing about something, I always finished it and told him, ‘thank you for the education.’ And to the last time we spoke, I always said that because it was always an education with Gary. He wanted you to be the best you can especially if you had the passion,” he said.

Williams had more passion for rodeo than anyone, according to Calderon. And that showed in the work that Williams did.

″Gary had such a huge impact here with the Tucson rodeo. He was here over 30 years operating here and being a part of it and him being here is the reason we’re today with this Tucson Rodeo,” Calderon shared.

The Tucson Rodeo will be celebrating 100 years in 2025, something that may not have been possible without Williams’s dedication to the sport and to Tucson. He was respected for his rodeo knowledge throughout the country, but his home was here in Tucson. The rodeo won’t be the same without him, but Calderon and many others are vowing to continue his work and make him proud.

Calderon said, “He would not want one day to slip by where we’re just sitting around and feeling really sad about this whole thing, which we do. He wouldn’t want that. He would want us to get up and get to work.”

Williams would’ve been 74 in January. For his upcoming birthday, the Tucson Rodeo will have a memorial for him.