The Bronze Wrangler Awards

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.

John Wayne’s  The Alamo  was the first motion picture to win a Bronze Wrangler award at the first ceremony in 1961. Image credit: Reynold Brown [Public domain]

John Wayne’s The Alamo was the first motion picture to win a Bronze Wrangler award at the first ceremony in 1961. Image credit: Reynold Brown [Public domain]

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 Wranger

The Bronze Wrangler Award Statue

Designed by Oklahoma artist John Free.

Image used under (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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:

  • John Wayne

  • Barbara Stanwyck

  • Ronald Reagan

  • Roy Rogers

  • Fess Parker

  • Reba McEntire

  • Tommy Lee Jones

  • Vince Gill

  • Henry Fonda

  • Sam Elliott

  • Robert Duvall

  • Kirk Douglas

Award Categories

  • Film and television

    • Theatrical Motion Picture

    • Television Feature Film

    • Factual Narrative

    • Factual Television Program (awarded from 1961 until 1989)

    • Fictional Television Drama

    • Western Documentary

  • Literary

    • Art Books

    • Folklore Books

    • Juvenile Books

    • Magazine Article

    • News Feature

    • Nonfiction Book

    • Outstanding Photography Book

    • Poetry Book

    • Short Stories

    • Western Novel

  • Music

    • Music

    • Outstanding Original Western Composition

    • Outstanding Traditional Western Album

Prominent Past Winners

Notable past winners include the movies:

Django Unchained won the Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture in 2013.  Image credit: user 22860 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Django Unchained won the Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture in 2013.

Image credit: user 22860 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • The Comancheros

  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

  • How the West Was Won

  • The Son of Katie Elder

  • True Grit

  • A Man Called Horse

  • Young Guns

  • Lonesome Dove

  • Dances with Wolves

  • Unforgiven

  • Legends of the Fall

  • 3:10 to Yuma

  • Django Unchained

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.