Bill Bailey, legendary voice of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, dies

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Livestock Show lost its longtime ambassador today, with the passing of a legend. "The Constable," as the rodeo called Bill Bailey passed away today. Friends said he had been dealing with health problems since he retired from the rodeo announcer's booth two years ago.

His career began in Houston radio, where he was a popular DJ on country stations starting in the 60's. Bailey did drive time radio at both KIKK and KENR. He was later inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

At the same time, Bailey became involved with the rodeo, involving himself from everything from the grand entry to bull riding, all from the announcer's booth.

"He had a voice that could cut through steel," said Bob Tallman, who shared announcing duties for 35 years with Bailey. "It was him, and you knew it was him. When he spoke, people listened."

Former HLSR COO Leroy Shafer saw Bailey as a Texas icon, and it wasn't for show either.

"It was the lifestyle of being a Texan," he said. "It was that lifestyle of being the cowboy that all of us who work for the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, or support it as a volunteer have. He was the flag bearer for all those volunteers."

Gary Cohen, who owns The Hat Store near the Galleria knew Bill Bailey as a customer who always wore a white hat.

"He bought white Stetsons," he said. "It was the only color he chose. It suited him."

And in keeping with his larger than life persona, he shared that "Buffalo Bill" also required a large hat size.

Bailey became a Lifetime Vice President at the Livestock Show and sat on its board. He was also elected Constable of Precinct 8 which stretches from south Pasadena to Clear Lake. Several years ago, he decided not to seek re-election.

Among his friends was longtime Channel 13 anchor Dave Ward.

"When I first started radio in Houston, he gave me three tickets to the rodeo. It was still at the old Sam Houston Coliseum."

In later years, he gifted Ward a cowboy belt with an impressive silver buckle.

"I asked where he had it made, and he told me it was done by prison inmates!"

Bill Bailey's passing has left a void in the lives of those who knew him as a friend, and a constant booster for Houston's western heritage.

"There was a song, Bill Bailey won't you please come home," said Ward. "Today, Bill went home."

VIDEO: Bill Bailey announces retirement
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Voice of the rodeo in Houston, Bill Bailey is retiring.

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