BEAUMONT, Texas — A Southeast Texas family created a non-profit organization to help preserve the legacy and honor the history of Black cowboys.
Floyd Frank received many honors during his lifetime on his path to teach others about the ranch and rodeo lifestyle. His son, Preston Frank, plans to continue his father’s work.
“I was sort of a little ole chauffer for Robert Chaison,” Floyd Frank said in a previous interview with 12News. “Robert Chaison, at that time, was the ranch foreman.”
Floyd Frank was known as a man who was synonymous with the Black cowboy in Southeast Texas.
After the end of the Civil War, many Black men learned to ride horses and gather unclaimed cattle that roamed open fields to make money. Floyd Frank spent time with his father at the McFaddin Ranch and learned everything he could, before going off on his own to the Boyt Ranch.
“I was always raised up fooling around with livestock because that's all my daddy did, see, and I just love it,” Floyd Frank said.
Preston Frank said his grandfather was a, “real cowboy,” who, “actually rode a bucking horse in Buffalo Bill Wild West show that came to Dayton, Texas back in 1930.”
Preston Frank said the cowboy lifestyle was one embraced by Black people despite its negative connotations.
“The word cowboy came from a Black guy being called a boy out on the ranch taking care of the cows,” Preston Frank said. “Most cowboys were broke and uneducated.”
Despite how people of that time viewed cowboys, Floyd Frank was an entrepreneur. He upholstered furniture and organized rodeos at his ranch in Cheek.
“On Sunday’s, they would come here and put up their [money] and we would add money to it,” Preston Frank said. “We would add money to whatever the cowboys put up in order for them to have [money] to win.”
Floyd Frank became the only man from the Southeast Texas area to be inducted into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.
"They glamourize the cowboy life with Roy Rogers, and these were actual things that I saw my daddy do,” Preston Frank said.
Preston Frank watched his father do and teach the things seen on the big screen.
“I'll give you the Little Britches Rodeo, train little bitty fellas on them, and that's the cowboys we have today,” Floyd Frank said in a previous interview. “Most of them was trained right there at my place."
Those teachings are what have enabled Preston Frank to keep his father's ranch going.
“I’m able to tell this story because my father trained me and taught me the things that he knew,” Preston Frank said. “What I'm doing what was done by my grandfather and by my father, and some of my kids know how to do this too.”
While they are no longer referred to as Black cowboys, they are still going strong thanks to the old and new worlds combined.
"It's going on the cowboy channel and the Multicultural Museum Hall of Fame, that's exposing all of the past records of Black men that did this,” Preston Frank said.
What was a livelihood for Black people has turned into entertainment.
“Right now, you can't hardly find anybody that knows too much about ranch life,” Floyd Frank said in a previous interview. “You'd find a lot of rodeo cowboys, you know. But after they leave the rodeo arena that's it.”
For that reason, Preston Frank works to preserve the legacy of how it all started. He created a non-profit organization to make sure his family’s ranch survives.
“That's the reason why I'm so adamant about getting this historical plaque put on this property right here at the gravesite,” Preston Frank said.
The gravesite is where Floyd Frank was buried just a few weeks before his 103rd birthday.
“This is my way of honoring his wishes, and then when I pass, I'm going to be buried right next to him,” Preston Frank said.