The Bronze Wrangler Awards, also known as the Western Heritage Awards, honor artistic contributions in television, music, film, and literature representing the Western culture of the United States. It is presented by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
The first Bronze Wranglers were awarded in 1961. The John Wayne motion picture, The Alamo, won in the Theatrical Motion Picture category; and, Dimitri Tiomkin won in the Music category for his score to the movie. Additionally, authors Steve Frazee and W. Bruce Bell won awards in literary categories. An episode of Rawhide, entitled Incident At Dragoon Crossing; and, The Great Lounsberry Scoop (Death Valley Days) won in the television categories.
The annual award ceremony is presented in the Sam Noble Special Events Center which features five grand triptychs, entitled Windows to the West, depicting landscapes of the American West.
The Bronze Sculpture
The Bronze Wrangler Award Statue
Designed by Oklahoma artist John Free.
Image used under (CC BY-SA 3.0) http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/index.html
Winners receive a bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback. The sculpture was designed by late Oklahoma artist John Free.
Free, a former rodeo performer, started the Bronze Horse Foundry in his hometown in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. After his passing, Free’s son, John Dale Free continued the foundry’s work. While the foundry burned down in 2012, John Free’s legacy lives on through Bronze Wrangler statue.
Chester A Reynolds Memorial Award
The annual Bronze Wrangler award ceremony includes the presentation of the Chester A. Reynolds Award, named after the Western Heritage Museum’s founder, honors one individual for their unwavering commitment to the future of the American West.
Award winners represent a variety of industries and background. They include:
Distinguished metal-worker and spur-maker, Jerry Cates
Former president of the American Quarter Horse Association, Johnny Trotter.
Sheridan-style saddle inventory, Don King.
Hall of Great Westerners & Hall of Great Western Performers
During the ceremony, honorees are inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners and the Hall of Great Western Performers.
The Hall of Great Westerners
The Hall of Great Westerners honors more than 200 individuals for their advancement of Western values and traditions; patronage of art, business industry, environmental, education, humanitarian, government or philanthropic organizations; achievement of national and historical significance; or, lifetime exemplification of honesty, integrity, and self-sufficiency.
Awardees are recognized with a wall placard in the Edward L. Gaylord Exhibition Wing at the museum.
Hall of Great Western Performers
The ceremony also inducts actors, musicians and other performers who, through their works, interpret the American West.
Notable members of the Hall of Great Western Performers include:
Tommy Lee Jones
Film and television
Theatrical Motion Picture
Television Feature Film
Factual Television Program (awarded from 1961 until 1989)
Fictional Television Drama
Outstanding Photography Book
Outstanding Original Western Composition
Outstanding Traditional Western Album
Prominent Past Winners
Notable past winners include the movies:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
How the West Was Won
The Son of Katie Elder
A Man Called Horse
Dances with Wolves
Legends of the Fall
3:10 to Yuma
Notable winners in music include:
Michael Martin Murphey
2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner & three-time Bronze Wrangler award winner
John Williams, for the score of the motion picture The Cowboys.
Jimmy Webb, for Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Michael Martin Murphy, for Corn, Water and Wood and Long and Lonesome Ride to Dalhart.
Riders in the Sky, for Always Drink Upstream from the Herd.
Red Steagall, for Wagon Tracks, How Green Was the Grazin’ Back There and Dawson Le Gate.
Notable winners in literary categories include:
N. Scott Momaday for Colorado Summer/Fall/Winter/Spring (with photographer David Muench) and Own in the Cedar Tree.
James Michener for Centennial.
Bill Brett for The Stolen Steers: A Tale of the Big Thicket.
Ivan Doig (Thomas A. Stewart, Editor-in-Chief) for English Creek.
Larry McMurtry for Buffalo Girls.
Andrew Gulliford (Jay Dew, Editor-in-Chief) for The Woolly West: Colorado’s Hidden History of Sheepscapes.
Cormac McCarthy for All the Pretty Horses
Despite similar names, the Bronze Wrangler award isn’t affiliated with the maker of the popular vehicle, Jeep Wrangler JK.