November 9, 1934
James F. Svoboda was born to James Sr. and Marge Svoboda, who resided most of their lifetime on a small ranch in Garfield County. Jim has seven sisters and three brothers. His siblings all still live in Nebraska. One brother, Tony, died in a car accident at age 21.
Jim married Marilyn Mayberry of Burwell on July 13, 1958. Each year their wedding anniversary is the same number as the number of the PRCA Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. They have three grown children: Tana (Jim) Brinkman, Jason (Angie) Svoboda and JB (AnneMarie) Svoboda.
Jim graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1956. He began his rodeo career while in college where he won championship buckles in saddle bronc riding, bull riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling and all-around. Jim joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association as a permit contestant after college in the late 50’s. He filled his permit when Bill Linderman was signing the membership card as Sec-Treas. Jim has been a contest/Pro Rodeo Photographer through changes in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). He has been a PRCA Gold Card Holder since becoming 50 years of age in 1984.
Jim worked as the County Executive Officer for the Garfield-Loup-Wheeler Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service for 33 years until he retired in 1989 in addition to ranching.
His interest in photography started in the winter of the big blizzard of 1948-1949 with his Brownie Hawkeye camera. That little camera served a purpose until Jim found out it couldn’t stop the action of rodeo events. He then acquired an adjustable 35mm camera and a 4×5 Speed Graphic with 4×5 negatives. Jim graduated with a degree in photography from the School of Modern Photography shortly after advancing to his first Nikon 35 mm as suggested by PRCA rodeo photographer Devere Helfritch from Oregon. Jim was worn out over 30 Nikon cameras and presently uses a Nikon D4.
Jim & Marilyn purchased a small ranch north of Burwell shortly after they were married and built up 300 head of registered Hereford cattle. At that time, the photography workload became such high volume and agriculture profits hit bottom so they got out of the cattle business and bought a large home in Burwell to accommodate the photography. Their ranch’s cattle brand was JJJ which became the name of the photography business (JJJ PHOTO) since Svoboda was too difficult to spell and/or pronounce. Since retiring from the USDA, Jim has devoted most of his time to the business of only rodeo photography.
During the last few years, Jim has taken up walking as suggested by his doctor. Following a five-way-by-pass heart surgery five years ago, he tries to walk five miles a day. Jim dowses for coins with his metal detector and has gathered up over eleven hundred dollars in lost coins as well as many rings and silver items. The oldest coin found being an 1852 large cent which is older than the State of Nebraska.
Jim & Marilyn presently live in Ord and enjoy retirement plus being involved in their grandchildren’s sports and activities. Photography still involves 50 weekends and 50,000 miles of travel per year.
Jim has earned numerous Championship Rodeo Buckles in bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling events plus all around
• PRCA Pro Rodeo Action photo Buckle
• PRCA Pro Rodeo Best Photo Journalism Championship Buckle
• PRCA Pro Rodeo Championship Buckle for Excellence in Rodeo Photography
• Nebraska Amateur Rodeo Association Secretary for several years&helip;changed the name to NSRA Nebraska State Rodeo Association. Responsible for filing NSRA Incorporation papers
• 25 year 4-H Leader / 4-H member in his youth
• National Little Britches Rodeo honored him with a buckle after 10 years as Official Photographer and a large western wall hanging after 25 years as their Official Photographer
• University of Nebraska Rodeo Association / UNL College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Certificate of Merit 50 years after winning the All Around Rodeo Championship at the UNL NIRA College Rodeo
• UNL NIRA Rodeo Association Gold Buckle Award for service
Memberships: UNL College Rodeo Assn., Rodeo Cowboys Assn., Pro Rodeo Cowboys Assn., Nebraska Quarter Horse Assn., Nebraska Quarter Horse Racing Assn., The Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Assn., Nebraska State Rodeo Assn., The American Quarter Horse Assn., Nebraska Amateur Cowboys Assn., Nebraska State Rodeo Assn., National Little Britches Rodeo Assn., North West Ranch Cowboys Assn., National Old Timers Rodeo Assn., Shafer Valley Roping Club, Burwell Saddle Club, Burwell Wrangler Club, Nebraska Highway 91 Assn., Burwell Chamber of Commerce, Burwell Airport Authority, Garfield County School Board, Loup Valley Coin Club, American Bowling Congress Member, Nebraska State Historical Society, Country Music Club, The Ruff Times, School of Modern Photography, Associated Photography International, The Professional Photographer of Nebraska, Professional Photographers of America, Nebraska Assn ASCS, National Assn of ASCS Employees, National Assn of Farmer Elected Agriculture Committeemen, Soil Conservation Society of America, Sandhills Cattle Assn., Graham School Inc., Garnett, KS, American Breeders Service, Inc., NE Sandhills National Exposition, American Simmental Assn., American Hereford Ass., UNL Alumni Assn., Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, Winchester Club of National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Pro Rodeo Historical Society, Inc. – Ok City, OK, BPO Elks Club, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., National Champion Fleet Nebraska Navy Admiral, AARP, National Marble Collection Assn., MENSA International High IQ Society.
• 50 Years of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo Limited Edition Book published in 1975 (Co-Author)
Over his lifetime: Jim has photographed literally thousands of Professional, Non-Pro, High School, College, Junior and other rodeo contests in states from Washington, Oregon and California in the west to New Jersey and Florida on the east coast, Montana, Minnesota, and Michigan on the north, to Arizona, Texas and Missouri to the south plus nearly every state in the western two thirds of the United States.
• PRCA Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, NV
• Miss Rodeo America in Las Vegas, NV
• National Senior Pro Rodeo Finals in Reno, NV
• Official National Little Britches Rodeo Finals (25 years) in Colorado Springs & Delta, CO
• National Intercollegiate Rodeo Finals in Bozeman, MT
• Bill Pickett National Finals Rodeo in Denver, CO
• National Feedlot Cowboys Finals in Garden City, KS
• Over 200 State and District Finals, Rodeo, Bull Riding, Team Roping, Barrel Racing, et., Western Events
• 50 PRCA Circuit Finals Rodeos (including Badlands, Montana, Prairie, Great Lakes and First Frontier Circuits)
Jim is presently working on his own personal book of his autobiography and rodeo photography endeavors. This task will have stretched over several years as Jim has over 3 million rodeo photos all recorded in two thousand pounds of rodeo proof books. They switched to digital photography in 2005. This daunting task will require countless hours of research to view each proof, scan old negatives and create the computer rendition of all photos that will be meaningful enough to fill those pages.