In the late 1940’s a roof was added and presumably a better
fence separating spectators and bulls. The county fair, jr. livestock
show, professional rodeos and a host of other civic events headquartered
at what was the regions most prestigious facility. In the early
coliseum was renamed for an Ardmore native and internationally
famous Wild West Show
and rodeo performer Hardy Murphy. Hardy’s show business
career spanned three decades
and took him to Hollywood, Madison Square Garden and a command
performance for the
King of England. Hardy’s friends included Gene Autry, Roy
Rogers, and Oklahoma’s other famous cowboy Will Rogers.
At about the same time that Hardy gave his name to the coliseum,
his two partners, show
horses Buck and Silver Cloud, were buried at the coliseum’s
grounds. The city closed it’s schools for the funeral and
both the governor and long time friend Gene Autry were among
the 10,000 admirers of Hardy and his horses that attended.
Sometime in the early 1970’s Hardy Murphy Coliseum fell
into a period of neglect and disrepair. In the mid-eighties a
group of concerned citizens organized as the Hardy Murphy Coliseum
Trust Authority and were given responsibility of managing and
aging but still viable building.
Last year over 100,000 people visited Hardy Murphy Coliseum and
Ardmore. Forty-eight weeks of the year the coliseum holds events
spanning anywhere from a single day to all
seven of the week. While horse events are our mainstay there is
something at Hardy Murphy Coliseum that will interest nearly everyone.
was Hardy Murphy?
It could be said that horses ran in Hardy Murphy’s blood.
Born in 1903, grandson of an old
line Texas horse trader, Hardy developed his love of horses into
a career of international
acclaim as horse trainer and rodeo showman before returning to
Ardmore to enter business
and enjoy a family life. Even then he worked daily with his horses
until his death in 1961.
During his career as a rodeo showman during the 1930’s and
1940’s, Hardy astounded audiences with his pantomimes of
scenes depicted in works of art by well-known Western painters
and sculptors. His reenactments were so moving that two western
balladeers acknowledged Hardy and his horse, Buck, as inspiration
for their songs, "Gold Mine In The Sky" and "A
Cowboy’s Best Friend". Hardy and Buck were featured
on the cover of
"The New Yorker" in October of 1944.
Hardy loved to perform and demonstrate his skills with his equine
partners whether in front
of school age children, or before the Royal Court in London. And
he did consider his horses Buck, Silver Cloud, and Thor as his
partners. Hardy and Buck were top billing for 10 years
in Col. W.T. Johnson’s rodeo in New York City, Boston and
Chicago; as well as, Col. John Reed Kilpatrick’s extravaganza
at Madison Square Garden. Hardy’s favorite charity show
was for Children’s Ward of Bellevue Hospital performing
for seriously or terminally ill children.
After retiring from the "Big Circuit", Hardy returned
to Ardmore in 1943. He began a second career as a realtor, civic
promoter, fund-raiser, volunteer and part-time performer for charities
and civic events. These activities won him the affection of the
community, which resulted in
the award that pleased him the most… the naming of this
facility in his honor. He was frequently referenced as "Southern
Oklahoma’s Goodwill Ambassador" and "Mr. Ardmore".
His devotion to family, friends, and community arose from his
genuine respect for others. Hardy is quoted in the program for
his 1938 appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden
In training any animal, after gaining his or her confidence and
affection, do not betray that instinct of admiration, because
you are all that counts in that animal’s heart.
Though he was speaking of training horses, the sentiment expresses
the attitudes which guided his dealings with everyone he met.
Buck was retired in a nationally televised show during the Forth
Worth International Stock Show in 1953. So important was the event
to good friend Amon G. Carter, Mr. Carter left
his hospital bed against doctor’s advice to be master of
ceremony. It was his last public appearance before his death.