Montana Cowboy Bill Brown, Jr. Passes Away at 83


Born in Sheridan, Wyoming February 16, 1929, William James Brown, Jr. was the only son of William J. and Elizabeth Brown who ranched east of Buffalo.  He and his sister Betty Jean were virtually the only students in a one-room school for eight years, until high school in Sheridan, where Bill was active in FFA and graduated in 1948.  Bill earned a degree in animal science at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he led the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, was involved in the early formation of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, and was elected UW Student Body President in 1952.

After college, Bill Brown returned to the family ranch where his father Bill, Sr., was in partnership with Porter Kennedy.  In 1953 he won the Calf Roping title in the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association.  The next year, his friend and fellow calf roper Irv Alderson introduced him to his cousin Ann Alderson, and on September 10, 1955, Bill and Ann were married at the Bones Brothers Ranch near Birney, one of the original Montana dude ranches started in the 1920’s by Ann’s father Allen R. “Big Bones”, and his brother Irving N. “Little Bones” Alderson.

On April 1, 1960, Bill moved his family to central Montana, where he and his dad bought the current ranch eleven miles west of Sand Springs.  That ranch was first known as “W.J. Brown and Son”, but the name was later changed to the “LO Cattle Company”, for the LO brand that they branded on the right hip.     

Bill and Ann raised four children: Taylor, Martha, Beth Ann, and Reeves, who all attended country school right on the ranch near Calf Creek, graduated high school at Fergus High in Lewistown, and later from Montana State University in Bozeman.  

Bill and his dad started with commercial Hereford cattle, and then developed a popular line of purebred Beau Donald Hereford bulls that they offered in an annual production sale in Lewistown for nearly 20 years.  Bill was one of the first in the state to develop a Simmental herd through artificial insemination, which evolved into their family’s present commercial Angus herd.  


Bill Brown, Jr. was a leader in the Montana cattle industry, a life-long student of range management, and a mentor to a great many young men who aspired to be the kind of horseman and top hand that he was.  He loved nothing more than to work a big herd from horseback, or to help a green colt finally learn to duck a cow.  Bill especially enjoyed the most difficult cow and horse challenges, like figuring out a river crossing, or a four-day trail with a roundup tent and a chuckbox, or working a big new piece of country that he hadn’t ridden before.  He loved to dance, and to play the piano, and to laugh and tell a story around the dinner table about the cowboys he admired and the horses they rode.  Bill was not mechanically inclined; and never had much use for ATV’s, hot-shots, or stock dogs.

Bill served as State President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association in 1988-1990, and was President of the Montana Public Lands Council and the State Grazing Districts.  He was proud to be a leader of the Montana Centennial Cattle Drive of 1989, one of the original members of the NILE Stock Show “200” Club, a lifetime supporter of 4-H and FFA, a Mason, and a 50-year member of Elks.  Bill and his wife Phyllis retired and moved to Billings in 2002, where they were active in the First Presbyterian Church and the Golden “K” Kiwanis.  They enjoyed 16 years together, ranching, volunteering and traveling.  In his last years, Bill struggled with Alzheimer’s disease, but never lost his quick grin and cheery attitude.

Bill left this life on March 2, 2012, after 83 years.  His survived by Phyllis, his four children, Taylor (Shannon) ag broadcaster from Huntley; Martha (Marty Clague) retired university administrator from Red Lodge, Beth Ann (Lyle Hodgskiss) office manager of the Double Arrow Veterinary Clinic in Choteau, and Reeves (Penny) Colorado’s state Executive Director of Local Affairs, of Fruita, Colorado; 14 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.

Funeral Services will be at 2:00PM, Thursday March 8 at the First Presbyterian Church at 2420 13th Street West in Billings.

The family encourages Memorial contributions to the Montana Stockgrowers Association Research, Education Endowment Foundation, 420 N. California St. Helena, MT 59601, or the Garfield County Endowment Fund, c/o Holly Harbaugh, Treasurer, P.O. Box 395, Jordan, MT  59337, or the First Presbyterian Church in Billings.

© Northern Ag Network 2012

Taylor Brown


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