Antioch’s last cowboy Jack Roddy and his wife Donna head to greener pastures in Texas

Jack Roddy sings “The Last Cowboy Song” with the California Cowboys at Delta Advocacy Foundation’s 2012 Roddy Ranch Roundup. Photo by Allen Payton.

Book about his life “Wrestling the World” published last year available on Amazon

Jack Roddy. Courtesy of Wrangler Network

By Allen Payton

Antioch’s last cowboy, Jack Roddy and his wife, Donna are heading for greener pastures. On May 15th they will be moving from their home south of Antioch to Stephenville, Texas, known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, about an hour southwest of Fort Worth. The Antioch City Council will honor the Roddys and their contributions to our community with a proclamation, during their meeting next Tuesday, May 12th. Jack Roddy Proclamation Antioch City Council 05-12-20

Jack Roddy wrestled the world, as a new book published last year about him, reads. The six-foot-five native Californian and U.S. Marine was the All-Around Cowboy National Intercollegiate Championship and the World Champion Intercollegiate Steer Wrestling title in 1959, while studying for a bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Then as a two-time world champion steer wrestler in 1966 and 1968, “Roddy and the Rodeo Cowboys Association board members turned professional rodeo into a multi-million-dollar sport” as the book has it. Roddy is credited for turning the sport of rodeo into the big business it is today.

“Arena wrecks and broken bones, were nothing compared to the tragic death of friend Malcolm Baldrige,” the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, when the horse he was riding fell on him while participating in a calf-roping competition at the Roddy Ranch in 1987.

Jack would continue to wrestle with local government in Antioch and Contra Costa County as a landowner, to see his dream of The Roddy Ranch Golf Club and new home community become a reality.

Jack and Donna Roddy speak with former Antioch Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Devi Lanphere at her farewell party in January 2011. Herald file photo.

He won his first major round of local land wrestling when he and his partners opened the golf club in 2000.

Jack also battled radical environmental extremists, claiming to be Luddites, who killed his cattle using bow and arrow, and threatened him, as well.

Jack won another major round in 2005 when the people of Antioch joined him and his partners in fighting back against the county, after the Board of Supervisors moved in the Urban Limit Line and cut out his property that the voters had already included. We passed Measure K overwhelmingly giving the approval for the 700-acre new home development surrounding the golf course. It was to be the Blackhawk of Antioch.

He battled a partner who came to town and said he “had more money than God” but instead got Jack embroiled in a controversial funding scheme with a school district from the Central Valley to finance a water line to the Roddy Ranch property. As a result, that kind of “roving joint powers authority” is now illegal in the state.

Jack also battled with a neighbor who stole his water, illegally tapping into the water line.

But after 20 years of work to obtain approvals for the Roddy Ranch housing development, due to delays by city staff and a mayor who ignored the will of the voters, Jack lost another round of wrestling. He and his partners sold the land to the East Bay Regional Park District in 2013. (See related article)

Worse, his young protégé, to whom Jack leased the golf course to run like his own business and whom he treated like a son, took it down as a result of financial fraud. (See related article) Shortly thereafter, the golf course closed in 2016 giving Jack what appeared to be a final defeat. (See related article)

Jack Roddy at Salinas in 1978. By Brenda Allen

But, ultimately, Jack who was used to picking himself up, dusting himself off and getting back on the horse, won his final round of local land wrestling, when and his partner sold the remaining property including the Roddy’s 40-acre homestead to the East Bay Regional Park District in 2017 and the golf course in 2018. Combined, all 1,885 acres will be permanent open space and one day open as the Deer Valley Regional Park, which will be Jack and Donna’s legacy for the region. (See related article).

A few years ago, Jack wrestled with pneumonia after being bucked off his horse and cracking three ribs. He’s been down, but never out and has always managed to get back up.

He has continued to live life as a cowboy, running cattle on their land over the years, bringing in cows from Hawaii, fattening them up on the grass, then shipping them to Texas to be fattened on feed before being sent back to Hawaii for butchering.

Jack and Donna have contributed to Antioch and East County through the years, hosting many events at their place, including fundraising barbeques entitled the Roundup at Roddy Ranch every two years which helped raise $400,000 for the Delta Advocacy Foundation, which he helped found; the Antioch Rotary Club which he was a member of for decades; as well as the Antioch-Chichibu Sister City farewell dinners when the Japanese delegation was in town for their semi-annual visit.

In 1991 and 1992 Roddy was the Seniors Steer Wrestling World Champion. He went on to serve on the Rodeo Cowboys Assocation as Steer Wrestling Director for over 16 years and in 1997 Roddy was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. He won the Steer Wrestling title at the California Rodeo in Salinas in 1962, 1964 and 1966 and was inducted into the California Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2010, as well as the California State Fair Hall of Fame. Today, he mentors future rodeo champions and carries on the traditions of the West.

In 2017, Jack was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, along with Dwight Clark of the 49ers. (See related article) See video introducing him for the presentation, below:

The book about Jack published last year, entitled Wrestling the World: The Life and Times of World Rodeo Champion Jack Roddy, available on Amazon, tells the story of Jack’s tough upbringing in San Jose with a “hard driving Irish father who forbade rodeo dreams.”

He’s been in several movies including a documentary that earned an Oscar. A few years ago, Jack, Donna and friends traveled to Ireland, where his father was born, and made his own movie about their trip.

Then last year, Jack appeared in an episode of the TV show, Man vs. Food when the host took on the 49er Club Steak Challenge at Vic Stewart’s in Brentwood. Some of Jack’s memories and accomplishments can be seen inside the restaurant, owned by former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, John Herrington, where a few of his championship saddles and photos of his steer wrestling days are on display.

Among their other influential friends, the Roddys can also count Stephen Hearst, with whom they take horse rides at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, each year.

According to their property sales agreement with the park district, the Roddy homestead will become a public museum dedicated to his rodeo history once he and Donna pass. It will include trophies, buckles, photographs of Jack with President Reagan and celebrities, and other memorabilia for future generations to enjoy.

To learn more about Jack Roddy’s life visit www.jackroddy.com.

We now say farewell to Antioch’s last cowboy, Jack, and his wife Donna as they head off into the sunset. Actually, the sunrise since their heading east! It’s been great having you here, getting to know and serve the community with you, through the years. God bless you in your new home. You are loved and will be missed. Just know, Antioch will always be Roddy Country!

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Jack Roddy Proclamation Antioch City Council 05-12-20


Wrestling the World – Jack Roddy book cover


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