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Badness and Madness

Some of the stuff we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

There is no escaping all of the attention college basketball gets this month, not even in your favorite magazine. There was also very little chance of escaping the ferocity of Bodacious, the baddest rodeo bull ever to live. Boxing champ Jack Johnson was quite inventive, and not just inside the ring. Finally, not everybody wanted the bluebonnet to become the state flower.

Feel the Madness?

This month marks the 75th anniversary of March Madness, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament—though the skimpy eight-team affair in 1939 hardly resulted in madness. In fact, the tournament wasn’t referred to as March Madness until the 1980s.

The only school from Texas to win the tournament was Texas Western, now The University of Texas-El Paso, in 1966. Coach Don Haskins made history when he started five African-Americans against the No. 1-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. The Miners defeated legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp’s squad 72-65, giving Rupp his only loss in an NCAA title game. The 2006 movie “Glory Road” depicts that season.

The only Texas team to come close to winning the tournament since then was the University of Houston in 1983 and 1984. The Cougars lost in the championship game both times.

The University of Texas will host second- and third-round games at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, and the Big 12 Conference will host the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

1,800

That was the weight, in pounds, of Bodacious, considered the world’s most dangerous bull. Of the 135 attempts to ride this Charbray of the Professional Bull Riders tour, only six men held on for the entire eight seconds. One of them was Richard “Tuff” Hedeman, who turns 50 on March 2. Hedeman, born in El Paso, rode his first calf at 4. He won rodeo titles in high school and at Sul Ross State University. But back to Bodacious. He was nasty. He would drop his head low and buck his hind legs straight up, causing the rider to lean forward. Then he would jerk his head back and smash the rider’s face. That’s what he did to Hedeman in 1995, fracturing most of the bones in his face, which required 13 hours of reconstructive surgery to repair. Hedeman, the president of Championship Bull Riding, lives in Morgan Mill and is a member of United Cooperative Services. Bodacious died in 2000 in Addielou.

On This Date

On March 7, 1901, the Legislature proclaimed the bluebonnet the state flower, even though state Rep. John Nance Garner fervently pushed for the prickly pear cactus, thus earning him the nickname “Cactus Jack.” [See Brittany Lamas’ “Meet the Colorful Cactus Jack” about Garner.] In the 1930s, the state began a highway beautification program that included scattering bluebonnet seeds on roadsides. Bluebonnets should be in bloom this month.

Heavyweight Inventor

Galveston native Arthur John “Jack” Johnson won fame as the first African-American world heavyweight champion. But he made a name for himself with his brains as well as with his brawn.

Johnson, who grew up in poverty as the son of a former slave, rose to worldwide prominence in 1908 by beating Tommy Burns in the heavyweight title bout and stayed atop the boxing world with several successful title defenses.

His flashy lifestyle brought him enmity in some circles, and his relationship with his white fiancée at a time when interracial marriage was largely banned led to a federal prison sentence. While he was at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, he had an idea for improving a hand wrench.

He was issued Patent No. 1,413,121 in 1922 for that idea and No. 1,438,709 later that year for an automobile anti-theft device.

Johnson maintained a high-profile life, writing two memoirs and selling bonds during World War II, before his death in 1946 in a car accident at 68.