WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Claude W. Fortenberry was born near Woodville, Texas on March 15, 1916, the fifth child of Walter and Florence Fortenberry. He attended Camden Elementary School and Chester High School located in Tyler County, Texas. He began his cowboy days early in life by hiring on with the Rysinger Ranch, near home, during the summer while still attending school.

In 1935, Claude entered the military and proudly served his country. After being discharged he moved back to Woodville and returned to the cowboy life. In 1945, Claude made a career change, going from herding cows to herding an 18-wheeler for J. H. Rose Trucking Company.

On a cross-country trip, Claude's rig broke down in Willcox and he ended up stranded for a few days waiting for parts. Anyone who knows Claude knows he did a great deal of visiting while in Willcox. He met a number of local ranchers and before the truck was fixed he had secured a job with the O-O Ranch. Claude returned the truck to Texas and then returned to the Sulphur Springs Valley where he began working for a number of local ranches.

During the 50's Claude worked for various local area ranches and also SSVEC as a meter reader. His said, "I read all the meters from Benson to the Arizona/New Mexico State line." In 1952, Claude met and married Jo Ann Sommer and the following year their son Michael was born.

For three years in the early 1960's, Claude accepted employment as a Deputy for the Cochise County Sheriffs Department in San Simon, AZ. He also remained active in the cattle industry with partners Phil Olander and Ned Hall. He and Ned remained partners for several more years. Claude then became manager of the Bob York Ranch in San Simon and again worked a second job as an Arizona State Cattle Inspector for six years.

The 70's found Claude managing the HYL Ranch, near Bowie, for Dr. MacCollum, where he remained until his retirement in 1986. From the time he began working on ranches Claude has bought and sold cattle for other cattlemen and himself. After his retirement no one had to ask more than once if Claude was interested in helping with a round-up or a wagon trip.

Currently Claude and his wife Ruth reside in Bowie, Arizona. He still remains active selling whatever someone is interested in buying. It might be fresh chilies and beans to a restaurant in Thatcher on Monday or a load of cornhusks to a tamale maker in Tucson on Tuesday. He has also held the position of Constable for 13 years in the Bowie, San Simon and Portal area.

Claude is a proud Father to Mike and a proud Grandfather to Johnny J. and Charity Dawn.

Claude remarked that, "There was nothing more satisfying than working cattle and riding the open range."

An old acquaintance remarked of Claude, "He's like an old dog, everyone likes him."