The Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate was founded in 1980 by a small group of Fort Worth businessmen led by Don Weeks and Frank Neve. The group had attended the prior year’s livestock sale at the Fort Worth Stock Show and recognized that the prices being paid for the animals owned and exhibited by 4-H and FFA youth were below market price. They agreed that these prices were not fairly compensating these young exhibitors for their hard work and dedication over the previous year, and that they deserved better results at the greatest livestock show in the world.
At the Sale of Champions on the last Saturday of the Stock Show, these youngsters would bid their beloved animals farewell in exchange for dollars that would ultimately pay college tuition or fund their next agricultural project. The Syndicate founders believed that the youth exhibitors deserved to be rewarded.
The original Syndicate members went to the sale planning to spend $13,000 on livestock. However, the allure of the kids got the best of them and the group spent $20,000. The next year they established a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, began soliciting friends and business partners for contributions, and in 1981, they bought 59 steers and paid $130,000. The game was on.
The contributions grew at an astounding rate each year. In 1983, James M. “Jim Bob” Norman took on leadership of the Syndicate and preached the mission of providing these young agricultural leaders funding for secondary education. Jim Bob’s term was cut short when he died from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. However, his vision lived on when Frank Neve assumed the Chairmanship and held the first fundraiser to establish the James M. Norman Scholarship Fund. On that night in 1985 the Syndicate raised $76,000 and a fund was established to provide scholarships to FFA and 4-H participants who were pursuing an agricultural or life sciences degree at a Texas college.
In 1992, under the leadership of Terry Dallas, the Syndicate broke the $500,000 mark at the Sale of Champions while purchasing 204 steers. Just five years later, Gary Ray led the Syndicate to the sale and walked out with 259 animals at a price tag of over $1 million. Another milestone was reached in 2003 when Bob Merrill wrote a check to the Fort Worth Stock Show for $1.5 million in exchange for 270 of the finest cattle, sheep, goats and pigs in the world. In 2007, the $2 million mark was broken under the chairmanship of Bob Akin when 278 animals were sold for $2,317,000.
Today, the Stock Show Syndicate boasts a membership of more than 100 businessmen who volunteer their time and energy to realize the vision established more than 30 years ago. Over the years, the Syndicate has grown to become the largest financial supporter of Junior exhibitors. Since 1980, they’ve raised more than $52.7 million for the youth exhibitors, provided over $1 million in scholarships for 4-H and FFA members, and helped more than 8,000 kids pursue their agricultural goals.
The 2017 sale raised in excess of $3.2 million for the youth exhibitors. Since its inception in 1980, the Syndicate has now purchased more than 1200 animals at a total price topping $52.7 million. In the last 16 years alone, the group has raised $40 million, with more than a quarter of that ($13 million) coming since 2014. The all-time single-year record of $3.7 million was set in 2015.
The 2017 Grand Champion Steer of the Show, a 1,388-pound European crossbred, sold for $240,000.