It was a summer day in 1968 when a traveling carnival pitched its tent just outside South Central, Los Angeles. Then 11-year-old Charlie Sampson visited with his Boy Scout troop. He remembers the monkeys, bears and snakes. But it was the pony ride that really caught his attention.

“I gave the man a quarter to ride the ponies. Went around five times and that was the beginning of a lifestyle that I never dreamed of,” he said.

Charlie would later take a job cleaning horse stables in exchange for riding lessons. Eventually, a group of older cowboys took him under their wing and showed him how to rope and ride bulls. Years later, in 1982, Charlie became the first Black man to win the Professional Bull Riding World Championship.


 Charlie Sampson riding a bull in 1984. Bern Gregory, courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. 1999.025.2422.33.

He came to StoryCorps with his son, Daniel Sampson, to talk about life as a father and a traveling cowboy.

Top Photo: Charlie Sampson and his son Daniel Sampson at their StoryCorps interview in Denver, Colorado on May 30, 2023. By Tamekia Jackson for StoryCorps.