ProRodeo Hall of Famer Barry Burk Passes AwaySara Tadken
ProRodeo Hall of Fame tie-down roper Barry Burk passed away Dec. 16. He was 79.
Burk, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1994 and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 18 times – 16 in tie-down roping (1964-77, 1979-80) and twice in steer wrestling (1963, 1969). He also competed as a team roping header at the 1968 NFR.
“He loved rodeo, he loved the rodeo way of life, and he loved the people who he got to be friends with and meet through rodeo,” said Blair, Barry’s son. “In the Burk family, rodeo is just a family tradition for us. My dad had a lot of good statements, and he loved his life and he loved rodeo life and he had a good time while he was here.”
Blair followed in his father’s footsteps as a tie-down roper and is a 14-time qualifier for the NFR, 1995-2007 and 2009.
Barry’s father, Dee Burk, was a top-notch rodeo performer who taught him the intricacies of roping and rodeo. His uncle, Jiggs, was another standout roper and his uncle, Clyde, was a four-time tie-down roping world champion (1936, ’38, ’42, ’44) who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1979 – the same year Clyde’s horse, Baldy, was enshrined.
Just how good was Barry Burk? Well, he’s widely known as the best roper never to have won a gold buckle.
From 1967 to 1975, Burk was a perennial contender for the tie-down roping world championship. He was second in the world standings from 1967-70, was third in 1971, second in 1972-73, third in 1974 and runner-up again in ’75. He had also finished third in the world in 1964 at the age of 22.
“I won second behind a lot of great ropers,” said Burk, who also won the NFR average title in 1973, in an April 10, 2015, article in the ProRodeo Sports News. “Dean Oliver, Phil Lyne and Glen Franklin were winning gold buckles back then, and those guys are as great as they come. I was really close several times; I just didn’t rope as good as they did.”
Burk came closest to winning a gold buckle in 1970, when he was $1,868 behind world champion Junior Garrison. Jeff Copenhaver beat him by $2,571 in 1975.
“It wasn’t really frustrating, and I never did feel sorry for myself,” said Burk, who was considered one of the nicest men to compete in the rodeo arena. “I just got beat by guys who were better than me.”
Burk was also an accomplished steer wrestler and team roper. He first qualified for the NFR as a steer wrestler in 1963 at the age of 21 and did that again in 1969 when he finished fifth in the all-around world standings. He also competed as a team roping header at the 1968 NFR, with qualifying partner Frank Ferreira Jr.
After Burk retired from competing, he began hosting his Barry Burk Junior Roping Championships, and the family will host the 37th edition Memorial Day weekend in his hometown of Ardmore, Okla.
“One of his last wishes was to go to the BB Junior Roping Championships in 2021,” Blair said. “He went and put the roping on and got to see all his friends and he loved that. After he had a Hall of Fame rodeo career, he gave back to the sport he loved.”
Future world champions and fellow ProRodeo Hall of Fame tie-down ropers Cody Ohl and Fred Whitfield attended Burk’s junior roping event.
Barry is preceded in death by son, Opie.
Barry is survived by his wife, Cheryl; brother, Roy, who qualified for the 1972 NFR in tie-down roping, and his wife, Melinda; son, Blair and his wife, Chelsey, and their children, T’Lee and Bryler Roy; step-grandchildren, Kennedy Phillips, Hudson Phillips, and Gentry Phillips.