Preserving the ranching lifestyle that settled Wyoming, Jim Atkinson and Frank Lilley were inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame in September for their contributions to continuing cowboy and ranching culture in the state.
Jim Atkinson’s daughter, Kacy, said she nominated him because he has been a rancher and a cowboy his entire life.
“I think he was deserving because he has given his whole life — 73 years — to being a cowboy and being a rancher,” Kacy Atkinson said.
“He took over his family ranching operation — which my great-grandfather kind of started back in the late 1880s — and he has definitely carried on with history and tradition.”
She said the ranching lifestyle has had its struggles but Jim Atkinson maintained the lifestyle while spending his life raising cattle and being part of the beef industry.
“It has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears for him to hang on and be a part of this life,” Kacy Atkinson said. “He definitely embodies not only the cowboy side of it for sure, but the ranching legacy part of it, which I think is the combination the hall of fame was looking for.”
Frank Lilley’s widow, Shirley, said he was inducted into to the hall of fame posthumous for his life as a cowboy and the several positions he had as a rancher. He worked on several ranches during his life before serving eight years as an Albany County commissioner until his death from mesothelioma in 1987, from exposure to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
“He had a friend that was at the Wooden Shoe Ranch and they were visiting and they said they need ranch help out here, so he went to work on Chimney Rock Ranch and that was in 1952,” she said. “In the beginning, he was just a ranch hand and then the foreman of the ranch had an accident with a pickup and the owners … they let him go and hired Frank as the foreman on the ranch.”
Shirley Lilley said her husband always saw himself as a cowboy and was proud of it.
“He was proud of it and he lived the Code of the West,” she said. “They asked me how long was he a cowboy and I said ‘He was a cowboy all of his life’ he was born and raised on a ranch. When he went into the Navy, (on one of the Navy’s forms he had to declare) his occupation and he just wrote cowboy.”
Shirley Lilley said she attended the ceremony Sept. 24 in Casper and really appreciated her husband being inducted into the hall of fame and how U.S. Senator Mike Enzi talked about cowboys and ranching.
“We really appreciated what was done,” she said. “Mike Enzi — one of our (U.S.) senators — was there and he gave a talk about cowboys and ranchers and it was very, very complementic to our profession and our way of life.”
According to information provided by the hall of fame, the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization aimed at the preservation, promotion, perpetuating, publishing and documenting of Wyoming’s working cowboy and ranching history through researching, profiling and honoring individuals who brought the culture to the state.
Each year, a local committee reviews inductee applications for one of 10 areas throughout the state. The top choices from the local decisions are sent to a state committee where they make the final decisions for who to induct into the hall of fame, information states.