“Pete” Clemons is a famed former rodeo star, a successful citrus grower and rancher, and the owner/operator of Florida’s premier cattle market, the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Highly regarded for his friendliness, honesty, and genuine desire to help people, Clemons is considered by many to be the best-known and best-loved cattleman in the state.
Clemons was born in 1927 and grew up working on cattle ranches in Osceola and Highlands counties. His parents, Oscar and Theressa Bronson Clemons, were both members of pioneer Florida cattle families. Clemons paid his own way through the University of Florida by working as a rodeo performer, and in 1950 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.
Clemons’ professional rodeo career began when he was in high school and continued until he was well into his forties. He won a record nine All Around titles at the annual Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee. In 1949 Clemons was the Kissimmee Jaycees’ representative at the National Jaycees Rodeo in Colorado Springs, and he stunned the western competition by entering all six events and coming away once again with the All Around title. As a rodeo cowboy, Clemons served as an unofficial ambassador for the Florida cattle industry both nationally and internationally. He appeared in televised professional rodeos on a regular basis and still raises championship rodeo bulls on his ranch in Okeechobee.
In 1961 with the help of his father and another partner, Clemons purchased the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Under Clemons’ leadership the market became Florida’s largest cattle market and one of the largest volume dealers east of the Mississippi. Today, the market provides a variety of special services, including locating buyers and sellers of cattle herds and bringing bull sales from out of state to local buyers. Clemons expanded cattle marketing to include video and internet marketing venues and helped start one of the first internet cattle auctions in the United States.
“If it’s buying or selling cattle in Florida, Pete is the man to go to,” says rancher Sonny Williamson of Okeechobee. “Ranchers know that he will help smooth out the problems for them and get a sale or purchase of cattle done fair and honest.”
Clemons has always been a strong supporter of the Florida beef industry and has worked hard promoting beef cattle ranching. In the early 1980s he served as chairman of the Florida Beef Council and helped guide the use of Beef Check-off dollars to raise consumer awareness about the healthfulness of beef and to build beef demand.
For the last 40 years Clemons has served as a board member or an officer of the Okeechobee County Cattlemen’s Association. He was president of the organization in 1979, and today he coordinates the group’s fundraising rodeos, which pay for beef promotion and college scholarships. In recognition of his many years of service, the Okeechobee County Cattlemen’s Association recently named him an honorary director.
Clemons is a strong proponent of property rights, fair trade, and reasonable business and land-use regulations. He is a past president of the Florida Association of Livestock Markets and was active for many years in the Animal Industry Technical Council, which works with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on animal health and disease eradication issues.
Pete Clemons and his wife, Susanne, live in Okeechobee. Their sons, Jeff and Todd, have assumed management roles at the Okeechobee Livestock Market, but Pete remains active in the business.
“Pete’s most valuable trait as a leader might be a very simple one,” says his friend John Williams, executive vice president of Riverside National Bank in Okeechobee. “He always has time for every single person.”