W.R. “Bob” Watt Jr. was a hero to many who love the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.
“When we look at the rodeo today, we have Bob Watt to thank for a lot of it,” said Elaine Agather, chairman of the Dallas Region for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and current Stock Show secretary. “He quietly and consistently improved the rodeo, the stockyards, the grounds, year after year.”
Watt served for 33 years as president and general manager of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, more commonly called the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. He died on Nov. 9 at his home in Fort Worth. He was 88 years old.
Agather vividly recalled that when, in 1991, she asked to ride in the prestigious Grand Entry to the rodeo, she wasn’t sure what he would say.
“Here, I’m this banker, this young blonde banker, and I wanted to ride in the Grand Entry, and he let me. Now, at the same time, he did tell me, ‘You got to ride them all. If you’re going to ride one, you got to ride them all,’” she said. “He didn’t want me to be a one-trick pony.”
Watt was born in Fort Worth, on March 29, 1934, to Helen Wallace Watt and W.R. Watt Sr. He attended Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth and Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Watt received a bachelor of science degree in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University at Stillwater, Oklahoma. Watt began part-time work between college semesters in 1955 and was elected to the organization’s board of directors in 1958, remaining on the governing body for 64 years. He served in various Stock Show superintendent roles before being named assistant to the livestock show and horse show managers in 1963. He became president and general manager in 1978 after having served in a variety of positions. He was named president emeritus upon his retirement in 2010.
“Bob leaves a legacy at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo that will likely be unmatched,” said Bradford S. Barnes, Stock Show president and general manager, in a statement. “His modest and humble demeanor obscured the tremendous impact he had on not just the Stock Show but the growth of the Will Rogers Memorial Center and the crucial groundwork that brought about Dickies Arena. Fort Worth, Texas has lost a great advocate and friend.”
Mayor Mattie Parker said Watt was one of Fort Worth’s greatest advocates.
“From his leadership at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo to his work on Will Rogers Memorial Center and Dickie’s Arena, he leaves a monumental legacy that will endure forever in our city’s history,” Parker said in a statement.
Edward Bass, Stock Show chairman, pointed to Watt as a mentor and inspiration.
“I’m truly blessed to have known him as a friend and Stock Show role model,” he said in a statement.
Bass said the Stock Show “soared to great heights during his tenure, largely due to his skill, hard work and dedication.”
Watt began part-time work between college semesters in 1955 and was elected to the organization’s board of directors in 1958, remaining on the governing body for 64 years. Watt served in various Stock Show superintendent roles before being named assistant to the livestock show and horse show managers in 1963. He ascended to the position of president and general manager, succeeding his father in the role, in 1978 after having served a variety of roles. He was named President Emeritus upon his retirement in 2010.
Watt was not one for seeking the spotlight, several area officials said, but his quiet leadership was strong, effective and long lasting.
Jim Austin, one of the founders of the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and a local businessman, said Watt was on his board and helped give the museum credibility.
“Bob is one of the reasons that Fort Worth is like it is,” he said. “It’s a great place to live and to raise children and one reason is Bob Watt.”
Ernie Horn, a local businessman, grew up selling popcorn and peanuts and Cracker Jacks at the Stock Show. He remembers Watt stopping by his booth to visit as Horn sold his wares.
“He would stop and visit and encourage you, even if you were just selling peanuts there,” said Horn. “That’s the kind of guy he was. He was a wonderful, deep thinking gentleman and he was well respected for his attention to details.”
During Watt’s tenure as president and general manager, the Stock Show grew from 10 to 12 then 17 and now 23 days. Before his retirement, crowds of more than 1 million consistently attended the Stock Show annually, making it the city’s largest public event. Participation in livestock and horse shows by exhibitors from around the nation grew steadily now topping 30,000 entries annually.
W.R. “Bob” Watt services
The family asks that memorials in Watt’s memory be made to: Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Calf Scramble Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 150, Fort Worth, Texas, 76101-0150; or MakeA Wish Southwest Region, 4541 Bellaire Drive South, Suite 102, Fort Worth, Texas, 76109.
The memorial service honoring Bob will be held a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at the First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, 800 W. 5th St. Reception to follow in the Amon G . Carter Exhibits Hall’s Roundu at 1:30 p.m. Private interment is planned. Visitation will be held at Thompson’s Harveson & Cole Funeral Home, 4350 River Oaks Blvd., from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.
Agather said she still lives Watt’s words about not being a one-trick pony. She has ridden the Grand Entry for 30 years.
“When I first started, I would look and watch him up there ahead, just to make sure I was going the right way, turning the right way,” she said.
Even though Watt won’t be riding, she said, she will still follow him.
“Even though he is gone, I will always see him and that horse ahead. He just was a spirit, a real spirit of the whole place, and he lived it every day, the quality of his life and his leadership,” she said. “There was no on and off. He was so consistent, but he told me I had to ride them all, so I’m still riding them all.”
Watt is survived by: his wife, Jerri Anne Watt; daughter, Susan Watt; stepson, Mike McCrary and wife Erica; brother, Tom Watt and wife Betty; grandchildren, W.R. Watt, IV and wife Mary Margaret, Callie A. Watt, Weston Wills, Walton Wills, Watt Wills, Davis McCrary, Sienna McCrary; great granddaughter, Georgia Watt; and nephews, Mike Watt and wife Laura as well as Rob Watt and wife, Peggy.
He was preceded in death by his parents, W.R. Watt and Helen Wallace Watt; and son W.R. “Trey” Watt, III.
Pallbearers for the memorial service honoring W.R. Bob Watt, Jr. include Watt Wills; Walton Wills; Weston Wills; Davis McCrary; Billy Bob Watt; and Reese Watt. Honorary pallbearers include: Bill Anderson; Brad Barnes; Ed Bass; Matt Brockman; Jim Gay; Char lie Geren; Charles Lasater; Mike Sands; Bob Tallman; Roy Topham; and J.R. Williams.
This story contains information from the J.R. Watt Jr. obituary.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.