Buffalo Soldiers Program Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Founders Event Held, New Museum Exhibit Unveiled

In honor of Black History Month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Buffalo Soldiers program celebrated its 25th anniversary with a founder’s event and exhibit unveiling today at the TPWD headquarters building in Austin.

Speakers at the event included Senator Royce West, Buffalo Soldiers program founders Kenneth Pollard and Tad Gose and TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Oliver Bell and former TPW Commissioner Bill Jones were also in attendance.

The Buffalo Soldiers program has been a part of TPWD and Texas State Parks for 25 years and celebrating this monumental anniversary is a great way to kick off Black History Month,” said Rodney Franklin, Director of Texas State Parks. “Texas heritage includes all of us.  Sharing the story of African American heroes and heritage through a rich military history is a source of pride for all Texans, and TPWD is honored to celebrate the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers during today’s event.”

The new plaque and exhibit unveiled today honors the founders of the Buffalo Soldiers program with a display of items used during some of the first outreach events at schools and communities.  The exhibit will be on display and open to the public at the TPWD headquarters building in Austin for a year before moving to the Buffalo Soldier Museum in Houston.

“The unveiling of the Founders Memorial plaque is a significant moment for the Buffalo Soldiers program,” said Franklin. “It pays tribute to the hard-working staff and volunteers that dedicated countless hours, weeks and years bringing part of Texas History and African American history to life.  It will forever serve as an homage to the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers program and its founders.”

The Buffalo Soldiers were the first free unit of professional African American soldiers in the U.S. military who served on the western frontier from 1866 to 1948 building roads, telegraphs and forts. Today, the TPWD Buffalo Soldiers program educates school students and park visitors about the original soldiers and encourages outdoor skills and recreation.

With almost 15 years with TPWD, Pollard has established partnerships with numerous history organizations and Buffalo Soldier groups continuing their support of the program today. He’s also spearheaded major victories for the program, such as working with state legislators to establish July as the official Buffalo Soldiers Month in Texas.

Gose began his almost 35-year career with TPWD at Lake Arrowhead State Park in 1978. Considered one of the founders of the Buffalo Soldier program, his largest event at the park drew more than 4,000 visitors. One of his most challenging assignments during his tenure was as a staff member on the Huff Wagon train journey. Along with more than 100 Texas youth, Gose and others rode hundreds of miles from El Paso to Houston on horse drawn wagons to bring the stories of the early frontier to life.

For more information about the Buffalo Soldiers program, visit the TPWD website.

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West Texas Lake Produces First 2020 Toyota ShareLunker

14.36-Pound Largemouth Bass Caught at Alan Henry Reservoir


Just days after being blanketed in snow, West Texas lake Alan Henry Reservoir produced the first Legacy Class largemouth bass entry of the 2020 Toyota ShareLunker season Feb. 9. Angler Blake Cockrell of Lubbock caught the 14.36 pound, 26.25 inch largemouth bass on a crankbait in 5-10 feet of water while targeting spotted bass on the lake.
“When I put my hands on her to lift her out of the water and land her in the boat, I was in disbelief,” Cockrell said. “I said out loud, ‘you’re something special.’ At that moment I knew this fish was bigger than anything I’ve ever caught.”
After notifying the Toyota ShareLunker program of his catch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists quickly dispatched to collect and transport “ShareLunker 582” to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where biologists will attempt to spawn her and produce bigger, better bass to stock in and enhance fishing in Texas lakes. Cockrell said loaning the fish to TPWD for the selective breeding program was important to him because he’s seen first-hand what stocking ShareLunker offspring has done for the bass fisheries in nearby lakes.
“We have a lake by us called J.B. Thomas that has been stocked with ShareLunker bass, and they are growing 3-4 pounds a year,” Cockrell said. “I’ve seen what the program has done in the past and the things it has done for people.”
Although East Texas typically produces the Toyota ShareLunker program’s first and biggest entries most years, TPWD fisheries biologists urge anglers not to sleep on West Texas as a bass fishing destination. In 2019, O.H. Ivie Reservoir near San Angelo was among the top five ShareLunker producing lakes for the year, and Alan Henry Reservoir has produced 28 ShareLunker entries ranging from 13 to 15 pounds since 2000.
“We are very excited that Alan Henry Reservoir has produced the first – and so far the biggest – Toyota ShareLunker entry of the year,” said Caleb Huber, TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for Amarillo. “This proves you shouldn’t underestimate West Texas if you want to catch the fish of a lifetime. Although our lakes are prone to fluctuating water levels and drought, increased rainfall over the last few years has greatly improved water levels and the production of larger bass, and I’m hopeful of more good things to come.”
Anglers who catch a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass through March 31 can enter by calling the program directly – any time of day – at (903) 681-0550.
Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31.
Anglers who catch a largemouth bass over 8 pounds or 24 inches can also enter their fish into the program year-round for recognition and prizes and to provide catch and genetic data that helps fisheries biologists better manage lunker bass in Texas lakes. These entries can be submitted on the Toyota ShareLunker app – available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or on the Toyota ShareLunker website,
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker Program has been selectively breeding and stocking angler-caught largemouth bass over 13 pounds since 1986 with the goal of increasing the production of trophy-sized fish in Texas reservoirs.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
Prize sponsors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co. and Stanley Jigs also provide additional support for this program.
For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, visit or Anglers can also now view the archive of all Toyota ShareLunker entries submitted during the season at
For pictures of all of the Legacy Class ShareLunkers caught during the 2020 season, visit the TPWD Flickr here:
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