Born in 1876 at Mount Vernon, Texas, William Thomas Johnson left home to work on Wyoming and Montana ranches at age fourteen. He returned to Texas around 1900, and by 1915 he owned over 100,000 acres of ranch land and began holding informal rodeos with his hands.
Johnson staged his first public rodeo for the American Legion at San Antonio in 1928 and followed that with major events in Dallas, El Paso and Houston. By 1931, he produced some of the largest rodeos in the nation, including those in Saint Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. To serve such far-flung venues, he established his own Rodeo Train for his personnel and rough stock, running from San Antonio to points north and east. A master of publicity, he once took a Paint pony by elevator to the top of the Empire State Building.
Widely known for his showmanship, Johnson ranked as the foremost rodeo producer in America in the mid-1930s. But, when the cowboys went on strike at Boston in 1936, he quickly lost interest in the sport and sold his company in 1937. Colonel W.T. Johnson died in 1943.