LUFKIN Texas (KTRE) - A man who brought laughter and smiles to many rodeo events at Lufkin’s George H. Henderson Expo Center as a funnyman has died at the age of 83.
Hall-of-fame rodeo clown Lecile Harris and announcer Mike Mathis completed the Dixie Nationals rodeo Wednesday night in Jackson, Mississippi.
“We were scheduled the next day to head to Hattiesburg, MS to start another rodeo. I talked with Lecile after the rodeo because I had a feeling that something wasn’t right,” Mathis said. “He told me he was already back at the room and that he thought he was getting the flu, but he would see me tomorrow in Hattiesburg. With that, Lecile went to sleep and left us.”
Harris and Mathis performed rodeos all over the country for more than 35 years, bringing smiles and laughter to children and adults alike.
Harris was a gifted man with many talents and a resume to match.
“Lecile did everything from box to play football; he was even an amazing drummer,” said Mathis. “He played drums with a whole lot of bands in and around the Memphis area where he was from.”
Where he really found his niche was in rodeo. He got his start bull riding, moved on to bullfighting where he excelled. Mathis said he took the comedy piece to the next level.
“There was only one Lecile. He had amazing timing,” Mathis said. “He could tell a story, he could tell a skit. At the same time, be spontaneous at what he was doing.”
Mathis couldn’t recall the first time Harris came to Lufkin’s rodeo but added, “It was many years ago, and he came for a number of years. He had numerous friends here, just as he does anywhere we go,” Mathis said. “But Lecile was an entertainer deluxe. The people here can definitely remember him from being here and being a part of the Angelina Benefit Rodeo. Again, he left a lasting impression with a whole lot of people here in Lufkin.”
Harris had many accomplishments in his career and then some.
“He created an entire new profession,” Mathis said. “That of someone who wears a wireless microphone in the rodeo, and walks and talks, and entertains the crowd.”
The two made a promise to each other.
“Lecile and I had always said when we decide that we’re doing the last one, we’re going to do it together. We just … we just didn’t get to know it," Mathis said.
The next day in Hattiesburg, MS, Mathis made a tribute to Lecile. He knew he had to keep moving forward.
“We carried on. But you know what, you have to carry on. There are other great clowns there who will, again, move and be a part of what we do,” Mathis said. “But there will only be one Lecile. And so for whatever I do, whatever rodeo I’m at, whatever act I’m a part of - still there’s only one Lecile, and he will always be someone I remember, treasure, and keep with me.”
Harris was named rodeo clown of the year four times. He was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and will be inducted into the Bullriding Hall of Fame later this year.