With the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge on the horizon – Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas – what better time to take a quick trip in the time machine to remember Ben Bates, a former NFR qualifier.
Bates joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1959 and qualified for the NFR in steer wrestling in 1968 and 1970.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder called Mexia, Texas, home and parlayed his athletic ability outside the rodeo arena into being a Hollywood stuntman. As a stunt double, Bates was best known for his work substituting for Gunsmoke star James Arness for more than 25 years.
Bates passed away Oct. 4, 2017, at the age of 84.
Bates’ long career included doubling spots for the television series “How the West Was Won,” (for which he was also a stunt coordinator), “McClain’s Law,” “Bosom Buddies,” “The Fall Guy,” and “Matt Houston.” He also appeared in the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger.”
Gunsmoke was once the longest-running scripted show in TV history. The western ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, producing 635 episodes.
The long-time stunt double Bates was quoted in the 2001 James Arness: An Autobiography book, noting that each year, Arness “would make them pay me more money, and the outstanding way he treated me is something I will never forget.”
Bates, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, spent some time as the Marlboro Man in print and television ads after being spotted at a rodeo.
Courtesy of PRCA
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