The tragic story of the youngest cowgirl to ever win pro rodeo’s world title, albeit posthumously. 

Article by Julie Mankin, originally published in the January 2007 issue of BHN.

It was 1967 when a half-wild, 4-year-old bay named Charlie Bay Dan and an 8-year-old go-getter named Ann Lewis began winning amateur rodeos across the Midwest. Ann turned pro just one year later (before the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association adopted a minimum age requirement) and, by August, she was winning the world.

Nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Sissy Thurman, 34, was then second in the world, and happened to jump in with the Lewis family in October for an all-night drive from a performance in Little Rock, Arkansas, to slack in Waco, Texas. Tragically, the Lewis rig slammed into an overturned 18-wheeler that night on the highway, and the wreck killed Thurman, along with Ann, her twin sister, Jan, and mother, Rose, plus both barrel horses.

Ann Lewis sitting on fence
Using techniques taught to her by her father, Bob, Ann Lewis became the youngest female to win a barrel racing world championship.

Little Ann’s lead held through the National Finals Rodeo, and she became the youngest cowgirl to ever win pro rodeo’s world title, albeit posthumously. The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inducted Thurman, a mother of two, in 1975 and Ann in 1981.

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