In February 1958, James Lowell (Jim) Adams of Dothan, Alabama was elected to serve as president of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. He stepped into this role with three goals:
"This corporation shall be a voluntary, non-profit, non-political, non-secretariat, statewide corporation. Its purpose shall be to promote the breeding, production, development and marketing of better cattle, swine, sheep, or horses by the exhibition of such livestock at public events where the encouragement of agriculture and livestock by individuals, industries, and associations for the maintenance of such public events and exhibitions shall be conducted.""This corporation shall not be limited to the exhibition of cattle, swine, sheep, or horses, but may in conjunction with such exhibits, hold other exhibits and demonstrations of any industry or activity, which, in the judgement of its Directors or Executive Committee, shall be deemed proper and expedient to insure the success of any exhibit from a financial standpoint, as well as from the standpoint of public interest and attraction."
- Create a monthly issue of the Alabama Cattleman magazine in order to provide better communication with association members and to promote the beef cattle industry. This goal was accomplished in June 1958 and a monthly magazine has published each month now for almost 70 years.
- To put into action an Alabama Beef Promotion Program, which was accomplished in March 1958 when the association launched the voluntary contribution program of 10 cents per head of cattle sold in Alabama. This program was the forerunner of one of the nation's first and most comprehensive beef promotion programs and is still known today as the Alabama Beef Checkoff Program.
- And his third goal— which leads to the history of the SLE. A very special dream of Adams' was to organize an association to promote the entire livestock industry, not just beef cattle. He sought the support of livestock industry leaders and on April 23, 1958, he and five others banded together and incorporated the Southeastern Livestock Exposition, Inc.
The five men who signed the incorporation papers with Jim Adams were J. Ernest Lambert of Darlington; W.O. Crawford of Burkville; E. Ham Wilson, Aubrey H. Fleming and C. Ed Teague of Montgomery. Two other leaders were present for this initial meeting and joined these six to compose and an eight-man board of directors. They were Ed Wadsworth of Prattville and W.H. (Mutt) Gregory of Auburn.
At its fledgling organizational meeting hosted in June 1958, the SLE hosted 45 members, known as Charter Members. Just six months later and the time of the first annual membership meeting, the Southeastern Livestock Exposition touted 89 members and today caps at a total membership of 150.
Charter Officers and Members
of the SLE included:
- James Lowell (Jim) Adams, president
- J. Ernest Lambert, vice president
- W.O. Crawford, vice president
- Ed Wadsworth, vice president
- E. Ham Wilson, secretary-treasurer
- C. Ed Teague, assistant secretary-treasurer
- John B. Armstrong, Selma
- Richard Arrington, Ramer
- T.W. Athey, Grady
- J.L. Beasley, Jr., Athens
- S. Elliot Belcher, Jr., Brent
- W.I. Bowman, Montgomery
- W.P. Breen, Eutaw
- James S. Clark Eufaula
- David L. Crawford, Marion Junction
- H.O. Davis, Montgomery
- George A. Dozier, Montgomery
- R. Furniss Ellis, Orrville
- Aubrey Fleming, Montgomery
- Ted Franklin, Jasper
- Gene Garrett, Uriah
- J.M. Gentry, Selma
- Robert L. Godwin, Brundidge
- W.H. "Mutt" Gregory, Montgomery
- W. Cosby Hodges, Birmingham
- J.E. Horton, Jr., Madison
- E.R. Howard, Toney
- Cecil Johnson, Geneva
- Mortimer H. Jordan, Birmingham
- John Kilgore, Jasper
- Allen Lewis, Gallion
- Thomas E. McMillan, Brewton
- E.C. Moody, Dothan
- J. Lem Morrison, Greensboro
- W.O. Patterson, Ft. Mitchell
- Dr. A.W. Patton, Jr., Tuscaloosa
- Pete Reynolds, Boligee
- Jack A. Roberts, Montevallo
- Cecil Shuptrine, Selma
- Don Smith, Prattville
- Dr. H. Phillip Speir, Greenville
- M.C. Stallworth, Jr., Vinegar Bend
- Green B. Suttles, Jr., Selma
- Arthur Tonsmeire, Mobile
- John M. Trotman, Montgomery
- E.N. Vandegrift, Oneonta
- Dr. J.K. Wesley, Talladega
- John Lewis Whatley, Opelika
- W.A. Womack, Ashford
Over the years, "Southeastern," as it is generally called, has undertaken many and varied activities to promote the cattle and livestock industries in Alabama. These include numerous programs to encourage the youth of the state in their agricultural endeavors as well as projects designed to show the general public the importance of the cattle and livestock industries to the state's economy.
Perhaps the most successful and widest-known project was the decision to sponsor the first Southeastern World Champion Rodeo at the State Coliseum in Montgomery on September 10-14, 1958. Tommy Steiner, one of the nation's best, was signed on as stock contractor and rodeo producer, and the first show was a hit! The decision to move the dates to the spring was made by the officers and directors and big names in the entertainment industry of the time, such as Gail Davis, star of TV's popular "Annie Oakley" series, were set as a standard and precedent for attracting some of the nation's top entertainers to be featured at succeeding rodeos. Some of those included the stars of "Gunsmoke," such as Dennis Weaver as "Chester," Milburn Stone as "Doc Adams" and Amanda Blake as "Miss Kitty."
By 1961, over 35,000 were filling the stands of Garrett Coliseum for the greatest show on dirt.
As the precedent for the show grew, new events, such as the first Alabama State Rodeo Queen contest, was added to the week's events and even big names continued to show face at the show. "Festus Haggen," "Trampas," Rex Allen the Singing Cowboy, Dale Robertson of "Tales of Wells Fargo," Paul Brinegar as "Wishbone" from television's hit show "Rawhide," Lorne Greene as "Ben Cartwright" from TV's long running favorite "Bonanza" and western superstar Lynn Anderson all made appearances on the dirt in Montgomery as thousands came to see! *Information above from "It's Great to be Number One!" written by Dan Hollis