Skip to main content

Bonnie Gray Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RC2012-008

Scope and Contents

The Bonnie Gray papers consist of several folders of documents, an unpublished manuscript, and a scrapbook which document the life of a woman best remembered for her amazing stunts and trick riding. Included in the documents are three short typewritten passages that describe moments of Gray’s life and a copy of her Last Will and Testament. The undated manuscript is a story Bonnie wrote about her rodeo and trick riding days. The narrator of the story is her horse King Tut. The tale follows King Tut from his colt days in Georgia to jumping over cars at rodeos. The scrapbook contains newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs [including Gray and Gray with her pets], letters from fans and politicians, and signed rodeo contracts.


  • 1916 - 1985


Conditions Governing Access

The Bonnie Gray Papers have no restrictions and are available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Bonnie Gray Papers are the property of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Materials, even if owned by the NCWHM, may be protected under third party copyright. It is the patron’s responsibility to research and secure any such additional copyright and pay any required fees or royalties. It is not the intention of the NCWHM to impede upon any third party rights, and the NCWHM cannot be held responsible if the patron is involved in legal action due to violation of third party copyright claims.

Biographical / Historical

Verna Smith, later known as Bonnie Gray, was born in Kettle Fells, Washington, in 1891. She graduated from Moscow Idaho University with a degree in music, and taught music in Kettle Fells for a short time. Bonnie, having grown up around horses, quickly decided to focus on rodeo and trick riding. She married Donald Harris and celebrated by having her horse, King Tut, jump over a car with people inside. This trick was very popular and they performed it often.

Throughout her career she participated in rodeos and shows across the United States and several international countries including, Mexico, Canada, England, and Germany. She is considered to be the first woman ever to attempt, and succeed, riding a horse at full gallop while under the horse’s belly. Bonnie was also a pioneer in the western film industry by being one of the first women stunt and double riders. She often took the place of western stars such as Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, and Ken Maynard. Gray died in 1985.

Sources: Crandall, Judy. Cowgirls: Early Images and Collectables. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Shiffer Publishing Limited, 1994. Wills, Kathy Lynn and Virginia Artho. Cowgirl Legends from the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1995.


1.00 Linear Feet (2 document boxes)

Language of Materials


Processing Information

Provenance: Bonnie Gray’s estate passed to June Belmonte upon Gray’s death in 1985. In April 2012, Ms. Belmonte donated the materials to the Dickinson Research Center by way of Pam Boncherding.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States