WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees
CECIL M. BYRD (10)
1989 COWBOY HALL OF FAME POSTHUMOUS AWARD
Cecil M. Byrd's grandfather, Martin H. Byrd moved from Missouri, purchasing a large cattle ranch in Brown County, Texas. There he raised cattle and also racehorses. The post office and general store located in the same building, as well as the nearby school and cemetery, were all named for his grandfather, Martin H. Byrd.
Cecil's father Shelby Martin Byrd lived on this ranch, where Cecil was born August 22,1897. While growing up Cecil attended the Byrd school, working on the family ranch at the same time. Later he was employed by the Humble Oil Company working in the oil fields surrounding Byrd, Texas.
On November 9, 1916 he united in marriage to Era E. Stewart. To this union six children, Paula, Doris, Lynn, Shelby, Betty Fay and Max were born.
In 1917 Cecil's father, two brothers and a brother-in-law moved with their families to Arizona. They homesteaded in the Sunset area in Graham County. Cecil came to visit them in 1927. He at that time purchased land in the Bonita area, continuing to work in the oil fields at Byrd, Texas. In 1929 he moved his family from Texas to the ranch at Bonita, later buying more land in the Sunset area, which is known now as the Buckskin Ranch.
At cattle shipping time his father and brothers would round up their cattle on horseback, bringing them as far as the ranch at Bonita, where they would spend the night. The next morning they would drive the cattle to the stockyards in Willcox to be sold and shipped by rail.
The depression period with a drought occurring at the same time caused cattle prices to drop. To maintain their livelihood, they raised cows and turkeys, selling cream and dressed birds locally.
Since there was no school bus from Bonita to Willcox, the family moved to a farm in the Stewart District enabling the children to attend high school in town. Cecil and Era took turns driving a bus from Stewart to Willcox during the school term, delivering children to both grammar and high school. Rex Allen was one of the kids that rode the bus. Cecil also served on both school boards. In fact, wherever he lived he served on a school board, expecting no favors for his children.
Cecil and his wife worked diligently to bring electricity to the rural areas. He was so adamant, he bought an electric range for their home before power was installed. He was certain it would be soon! Mrs. Byrd served on the Board of Directors and was the first secretary of the R.E.A. board. Their dreams were realized when in 1941, Mrs. Byrd pulled the switch at Double Adobe, surging electric power into the Sulphur Springs Valley.
The ranch at Bonita and farm in Stewart District were sold and in 1940 Mr. Byrd purchased an apartment house on Haskell Avenue in Willcox. He was Deputy Sheriff of Cochise County in the Willcox area for twelve years. During this time he also assisted Frank Wootan with cattle inspecting. Later he sold the property in Willcox proper and purchased, from Jess Moore, a home and land two and one-half miles out of town on Airport Road. In 1950 he bought the High School Store, which his wife operated, also allowing customers to have charge accounts.
His grandchildren nicknamed him Daddy Cece (cease) therefore, he was known to many school children by the same name. They knew he was "The Law" but felt free to talk to him if need be.
He was a very helpful citizen, being always sympathetic toward his fellow man.
In December 1962 he and our Mother were visiting in Tempe, Arizona with our brother Shelby and family. On Christmas Eve, at age 65, he suffered a massive heart attack and died in the Tempe Hospital.
He is buried in Sunset Cemetery, Willcox, Arizona.