As Katy ISD gets ready to celebrate 75 years of FFA and rodeo history, Katy Magazine takes a look back at the first-ever Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show, Rodeo, and Parade and remembers the man who made the agricultural science program in Katy what it is today; Mr. L.D. Robinson.
KATY MAGAZINE | February 2018 By Ashley Lancaster & Diana Elder
Opening photo of the Katy Cowgirls by Juliana Evans
Story Photography courtesy of Diana Elder and Katy ISD
In 1942, the director of the Texas Education Agency, J.D. Marshall, hired L.D. Robinson to take over as the vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in Katy, Texas. At the time, the program was in danger of being discontinued by the state, and Marshall knew that immediate action needed to be taken. When Robinson got there, he saw an opportunity to make Katy's agriculture science program great. To most, it seemed like an impossible dream. What no one realized was that it was destined to become the first program of it's kind in the United States, and arguably the best in the country to date.
A man with a vision Robinson's plan for the program was grandiose by all accounts, and included an FFA chapter ag science farm, local livestock show and rodeo, and a lighted arena; which at the time, wasn't known to exist anywhere else in the country.
(L.D. Robinson & students present scale model of his “dream plan” for the Katy FFA Chapter Agriculture Farm, Livestock Show, & Rodeo with lighted arena at the first FFA Father & Son Banquet, 1942, including the Katy ISD School Board, J. A. Marshal - TEA Director, & State officials)
With the help of some of his students, he built a scale model replica of an FFA chapter farm, livestock barns, a show barn, feedlots and pens, and a lighted rodeo arena and presented the at the first Katy FFA Father and Son Banquet, the Katy I.S.D. school board, and State officials including Mr. Marshall. It was emphasized that the program would be self-supporting and would not cost the school district one cent - another long shot. But the district gave him the go ahead.
A slim budget
To fund all of these wonderful dreams of FFA greatness, they had $57 (approximately $1000 today) to start with, and $45 of that was used to purchase nine pigs from local farmer Roy Beckendorff. V.D. Avera, owner of Katy Feed Store, graciously agreed to carry the feed bill until the pigs were ready to sell. In April 1943, The Katy ISD FFA was ready to hold it's first ever auction, but Robinson, ever the planner, wanted to do things right the first time, and new that for an auction, you need a crowd.
(The first Katy Livestock Show & Rodeo Volunteers)
Cowboy Sports Rally Rodeo
Robinson and others quickly built a fence around the football field as a makeshift rodeo arena, and local cowboys volunteered to ride at night just before the pig auction. Cars had to turn their headlights onto the field so the cowboys and auctioneers could see. According to Robinson at the time, "They not only were interested in the sale but went wild over the cowboy sports rally." The event brought in $87 from the rodeo, and $454 dollars from the pig auction.
(The first Katy Rodeo participants)
The public wanted more
Originally a one-time event, the Cowboy Sports Rally was such a phenomenal hit that it became a weekly event held every Saturday night during the summer for the next 8 years. The community competed in goat roping, flag races, ribbon races, basketball on horses, ladies barrel racing, relay races on horses, goat hair pulling, and more. The first parade made its way through the streets of Katy which were unpaved at that time, and it seemed that the entire town was there along with many visitors cheering for their favorite cowboys, cowgirls, and parade entries. The livestock show expanded and Robinson incorporated an Open Breeding Cattle Show into the annual event which was held in the Katy I.S.D. Bus Barn located on the west side of the facility. This also brought in a lot of new buyers for the livestock show and auction.
(Edwina Denney, the first Katy ISD FFA Sweetheart)
Dreams become a reality In 1947, Robinson's scale model of an ag science farm became a reality, when he used proceeds from early livestock shows and rodeos to build the real deal that included a show barn, farm equipment, livestock pens, and lighted rodeo arena with bleachers and pasture land, built behind present-day Katy High School on FM 1463. The entire facility was built by the students and parents with the support of local businesses and the entire Katy community. All materials used to build the first facilities were donated by local area businesses. The land for the Ag Science Farm and show grounds was donated by the Cotts family.
(L.D. Robinson (right) with Katy FFA chapter members during the late 1950's with Charoloais bull “Jonesy” from the chapter farm herd.)
Robinson's true passion realized With the culmination of all of these projects, Robinson was able to truly pursue his passion, which was encouraging young people. His FFA chapter ag science program gave students the chance, for the first time ever, to raise their own livestock through a co-op program - teaching them about responsibility and hard work.
Building a nationally recognized program What began as a dismal prospect in 1942, was after 12 years, now being called across the nation, "the school you have to beat in order to win" when it came to agricultural science. Over the years, numerous publications highlighted the Katy FFA chapter and Mr. Robinson, one headline of the State FFA Convention Newspaper Reading, "Can You Top This?"
Before his retirement in 1972, L.D. Robinson was given the highest possible honor that can be bestowed upon someone in his position - the Honorary American Farmer Degree at the National FFA Convention, and was honored as one of the Top Educators in the Nation. He also received the Honorary Texas Farmer Degree and Texas Honorary FFA Member for Chapter, District, and Area and was recognized several times at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
(L.D. Robinson's dream fulfilled for Katy FFA chapter agriculture farm with livestock barns and show barn, pens and feedlots, and lighted rodeo arena.) "Before football took off, people and businesses were attracted to Katy because of the outstanding agriculture program and it was a major farming region in the United States." says his daughter, Diana.
Katy ISD FFA Today Today, the Katy ISD FFA programs have grown from one to eight and are in each of the high schools with more than 1000 active student participants and the district continues to grow. Robinson, who was the only agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor until he retired, has been replaced by over twenty ag teachers. The rodeo is still one of the largest local rodeos in the country and each year, approximately $20,000 or more of rodeo proceeds is returned to the FFA program, students and charitable civic groups.
"I’ve visited our Katy ISD barns and classrooms and have seen our students tending to their livestock at the crack of dawn and late into the evening, studying the scientific principles of agriculture, and honing entrepreneurial skills. These students engage daily in work-based learning experiences that develop leadership and personal growth that speaks volumes to their level of dedication,” says Katy ISD Superintendent, Dr. Lance Hindt.
(Katy FFA Chapter 2017 District VII Sweepstakes Winners)
Living to Serve
Robinson’s impossible dream has become a reality and his legacy will continue to live on for generations to come. The FFA Motto, “…Living to Serve” is what L. D. Robinson exemplified throughout his own life dedicating his time and talents in making a positive difference in the lives of young people and serving the Katy Community that he and his wife, Ruby, so dearly loved. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson celebrated 48 years of marriage and dedicated their lives to serving others.
The L.D. Robinson Scholarship
In 1970, to honor his 29 years with the Katy FFA Agriculture Education Program and 44 years in Texas education, former students and Katy FFA Chapter members founded the L.D. Robinson Scholarship Fund. Almost 150 4-year scholarships have been awarded to outstanding seniors active in the Katy ISD FFA, Agriculture Program since its inception.
Katy Magazine would like to thank Diana Elder, the Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show, Rodeo & Parade leadership committee, and the Katy ISD Communications Department for their help with this feature.