February 26, 1927 – April 18, 2013
Leonard R. Phipps was born in Mullen, Nebraska, on February 26, 1927 to Russell and Elva LeLaCheur Phipps. Later he was joined by two brothers, Doug, who currently lives in Mullen and Bob, who was killed in a rodeo accident in 1958. Aside from his high school days, which were spent at Curtis attending what is currently the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, he has spent his life living and working on the ranch his grandfather purchased in 1906, northeast of Whitman, Nebraska. At that time, the ranch was a cow/calf operation, but also raised a few horses and usually had a pig and a few sheep for butchering.
In 1949, he traveled to New York to marry Ferrissa Malcolm. Leonard and Ferrissa had three children: Wayne of Berthoud, CO, Gary, who currently lives on the family ranch, and Lois Hardy of Mullen, NE. Leonard participated in all aspects of ranch life from working with the cattle to haying, to starting colts. It was said that he was a better bronc rider than his brother Bob, and Bob was ranked one of the top in the state in bareback riding at the time of his death.
Leonard Phipps was an innovative rancher, a visionary who was not afraid to try something new. Raised in the depression, he learned to make do, do without and always look for a better way. In an era when most ranchers were raising cows and calves, he switched to strictly steers, enabling the family ranch to continue to grow and develop. He was one of the first Nebraska ranchers to bring registered quarter horses to the area, purchasing his first mare from Coke Roberts in 1960 and raising his first registered foal in 1961.
Leonard didn’t do much rodeoing although he would compete in roping once in a while. In later years, he enjoyed team penning. The ranch was incorporated in 1959. In 1970, the ranch bought out his brother, Doug. The ranch used horses for haying until 1975 and at one time had 65 head of broke draft horses. When the horse market was better, the ranch ran 25-30 head of broodmares. At the time of submission, there were 15 broodmares on the place. There were always steers on the ranch, including the 2 and 3 year olds, in addition to the cows, but in 1974, the decision was made to sell the cows with the heifers being sold in 1975. From that point on, the family ranch has been strictly a horse and steer operation, changing its name from Phipps Hereford Ranch to Phipps Land and Livestock in 1995. Leonard always helped in the hayfield from the time he was old enough to drive a team to the last hay season when he was still running a hay sweep at age 85. He caked his steers every day and was active in all the day to day decision until the time of his death earlier this spring.
Leonard served on the Mullen Fire Board for several years, but mostly stayed home and tended to business all his life. The business of raising a family, quality quarter horses, and good sandhills beef were his top priorities. In 2011, the ranch was awarded the AQHA legacy Award for 50 continuous years of raising registered quarter horses. In 2012, the ranch was also recognized as a Ranching Heritage Breeder by the American Quarter Horse Association. Leonard’s lifetime of hard work and sacrifice has ensured that the sixth generation of Phipps’ will have a ranch that will continue to be successful for years to come.