Ken R. Knopp
“In my travels, I’ve worked with dozens of celebrities: well known actors, athletes, country music singers, famous rodeo personalities and other so called ‘stars’. Many are self serving and insecure- some not worth a damn! In my opinion, the real ‘stars’ in life are those who serve others quietly, and to me personally- my family, close friends, amazing horses, wonderful dogs and influential mentors that have made my life a great ride and a lot of fun!”
With three books and dozens of articles to his credit Ken R Knopp has written extensively about 19th century American history and horse culture, Confederate, Federal military and American civilian riding saddles; horse equipment; leather production; hardware; British military saddlery; Confederate accouterments, and the American saddle making industry. He is considered one of the most knowledgeable authorities on 19th century saddlery in the country today.
A native Midwesterner now living in Mississippi, Ken R. Knopp has spent most of his life living in, and in love with the culture and history of America, the Old South and the old West. With a B.S. degree in Agricultural Communications from Michigan State University he makes no claims of academia nor of being a “historical scholar” but rather a “lifelong student” with a passion for 19th century history. An “unreconstructed” historian, risk taker and adventurer, Knopp blended numerous business pursuits and experiences from his varied background including 25 years in professional rodeo, real world adventures with horses as a working cowboy; rodeo cowboy; PR Man; movie consultant, skilled extra, stuntman, and as an historian and writer, combined with his love for military history, saddlery and reenacting to produce some groundbreaking studies of American saddles and horse equipment. His first book, CONFEDERATE SADDLES & HORSE EQUIPMENT is widely acclaimed to be the most comprehensive study of the saddles and horse equipment manufactured and used by the legendary Southern horsemen. His latest project, AMERICAN RIDING & WORK SADDLES, (and Horse Culture) 1790-1920, published in the fall of 2018 has set the bar for comprehensive understanding of historic American riding saddles our equine culture and their place in our nation’s history.
For most of his adult life Ken R. Knopp made his living in the world of professional rodeo rising to the top of his field marketing and producing some of the nation’s largest and most successful “indoor” PRCA rodeos and televised PBR Bull Ridings. His work in professional rodeo and as a horseman provided him numerous opportunities in several movies, documentaries, in television, live stage performances including the National Finals Rodeo, radio shows and public speaking engagements as well as writing PR material and feature articles for dozens of industry magazines and newspapers.
Ken grew up with a fascination for history. When he was six years old his father introduced him to local doctor James Cook, a former WWII combat surgeon and avid Civil War collector. Dr. Cook’s generosity, books and large collection of artifacts was the genesis for what would become a life long passion. As the son of a suburban pharmacist and with no background or familial connections to horses or the rodeo business, Knopp got his education at the “school of hard knocks”. As a teenager Ken owned horses and worked at a local stable. After high school he went to Michigan State University where he joined the Rodeo Team learning then competing in the roping and bareback bronc riding events. After two years he dropped out moving to central Florida to make a living “day working” cattle during the week then “rodeoing” on the weekends. A back injury, (and “good sense”) prevailed upon him to finish college. With an eye on a career in the “business” of rodeo, Ken returned to MSU and the excellent college rodeo there, then graduated in 1981 with a degree in Agriculture Communications (the only degree which required no chemistry or math). Moving to Nashville he took a job as Publicist under rodeo marketing pioneer Bruce Lehrke and Longhorn Rodeo Company (formerly Loretta Lynn’s Longhorn Rodeo). It was under Lehrke’s excellent tutorage that he learned the trade working large indoor coliseum events in big cities all over the nation. In 1983 Ken formed his own independent company and began freelancing large and small events across the country as well as supplementing his income and experiences in other endeavors including work in several “period” movies and commercials as a skilled background extra and stunt work.
It was during this time that Ken’s long dormant interest in military history and the Civil War was reawakened and led him into artifact collecting, historical research, writing, reenactments and movies. Over the next several years Ken worked several movie projects including the ABC blockbuster TV Mini-Series “North & South”; “The Alamo: The Price of Freedom” – A State of Texas IMAX movie production (still shown at the Alamo); Another “movie from a book”, TV Mini-series about Custer at the Little Big Horn entitled, “Son of the Morning Star” and, the hugely successful, Academy award winning movie “Glory”. Others followed.
By the early 1990’s, Ken’s rodeo career had him devoting most of his time to work with James Harper and Ralph Morgan’s, Harper and Morgan Rodeo Company, then the nation’s largest producer of coliseum production rodeos. As Marketing Director, Ken was responsible for the advertising, sponsorships, promotions, event staffing and publicity at up to twenty-five events a year as well as producing, writing and acting in the company’s legendary theme inspired Opening Productions. These “live” short-dramas were so well respected the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) hired the company to produce the 1990 NFR opening productions in Las Vegas. In 1994, back surgery permanently ended his horseback riding but not his enthusiasm for military history, research and writing. Over the next several years a growing career in the professional rodeo business, book projects and numerous articles absorbed his attentions. However, by 2001 Ken was growing tired of the politics and the grueling road life inherent in professional rodeo. Married in the fall of 1989, the many weeks and months in travel away from his wife and daughter were taking a toll. Ken was “road-sour”. After twenty-six successful years in the rodeo business he simply walked away from it in the fall of 2001. Yet, even after he left the rodeo world he was recognized for his talent and rodeo business experience by twice being asked to return to Las Vegas to give keynote marketing seminars at the annual PRCA Rodeo Convention.
Ever the adventurer, entrepreneur and self starter, Ken wanted a completely different but independent path after rodeo. Quickly, yet dramatically, he “traded horses” and was (somehow) immediately hired by Edward Jones Investments-one of America’s top brokerage firms. With no formal education in finance Knopp went at this opportunity with a focused determination. Just thirty-one months after being licensed as a Financial Advisor Ken was at the highest segment level of production for the firm. Recognizing his abilities the firm gave Ken additional opportunities and offered him several leadership positions. Quickly rising up the ranks, Ken is now one of Edward Jones’ top producers and still involved in leadership and training activities. When asked about his varied lifestyle and careers Ken says, “I have never been very athletic, smart or blessed with talent but GOD has thankfully given me a strong work ethic and then the ability to adapt, absorb, transform and, even occasionally, to excel where passion and opportunity have met.”
Today, Ken continues his love for history with continuous publishing projects and speaking engagements around the country. He writes constantly, has books in progress and contributes to several historical magazines and publishes articles nearly every year as well as volunteering at local historic sites and community efforts.. A passionate speaker in patriotic and historical themes, Ken routinely speaks before historical associations and civic groups. At Edward Jones he devotes his time to his clients and training/motivating young financial advisors. As “just an old cowboy turned businessman” Ken gives all the Glory to his LORD Jesus Christ and says he is, “truly blessed beyond understanding”. He enjoys being at home on his small farm outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi with his gorgeous wife Heather and daughter Alexandra.
- AMERICAN RIDING & WORK SADDLES (And Horse Culture) 1790 – 1920 (Out now!!!)
- CONFEDERATE SADDLES & HORSE EQUIPMENT (2001)
- MADE IN THE C.S.A., SADDLE MAKERS OF THE CONFEDERACY (2003)
Dozens of original articles published by the following magazines:
- Military Collector & Historian, Journal of the Company of Military Historians (Numerous articles. Winner of the William K Emerson Award! Best article of 2016!!)
- North South Trader’s Civil War (numerous articles)
- The Cavalry Journal, Journal of the United States Cavalry Association.
- Smoke & Fire News
- Civil War Historian
- Civil War News
- Civil War Courier
- Camp Chase Gazette
- Shop Talk (Leather workers magazine)
- Rodeo Sports News
- Rodeo News
- Hoof & Horn Magazine
- National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Magazine
- And dozens of local and regional newspapers, magazines and periodicals.
Small acting roles, stunt work, production staff or background extra in the following movies:
- NORTH & SOUTH, 1985-1986 ABC Mini Series: Skilled background extra. Film stared a host of well known actors and celebrities.
- THE ALAMO, THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, Republic Pictures and State of Texas Production. Uncredited stunt work and Texas/ Mexican background extra. IMAX film won the 1988 Cowboy Hall of Fame- Wrangler Award for Authenticity and Stunts. IMAX film starring lessor known names and political appointees but as a historical representation and quality production its the best. Shown at the Alamo Theater in San Antonio.
- SON OF THE MORNING STAR, 1990 ABC Mini-Series. Skilled extra, uncredited stunt work including…. lots of hard riding and fight scenes as one of Custer’s famous 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Movie based on Evan S Connell’s Best Selling book of the same name. Starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette, Rodney Grant, David Strathairn and Dean Stockwell.
- GLORY, 1989 Multiple Academy Award Winning movie by Freddie Fields. Uncredited Stunts and skilled background extra. Movie about Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts Regiment of black troops during the Civil War. Starring Mathew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.
- SHILOH NATIONAL PARK DOCUMENTARY: Historical Consultant, Wrangler and acting role as Federal Col. “Pappy” Cockerill. Filmed for the NPS at actual sites on the park in 2011, it tells the story of the battle. Premiered on the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2012 it replaced the park’s 50 year old Visitor Center Film.
- Various television commercials and other film projects.
- Wrote, directed, acted and did stunts in several LIVE stage productions at nationwide indoor professional rodeos (PRCA & PBR) from 1983-2001 including the Openings for the 1990 National Finals Rodeo, Las Vegas, NV.
- Hundreds of media interview appearances over twenty years in the rodeo business on local television, radio and news programs in major and minor media markets in fifteen states.
- Edward Jones Financial Advisor (current) Top 5% in the firm of 16,000 Financial Advisors.
- Edward Jones Mississippi Leadership Team
- Former Marketing Dir. for Harper & Morgan Rodeo Co., Nation’s largest Pro Rodeo producer (1983-2001).
- Former News Writer for Michigan Agriculture and News Radio Network.
“A cold, wet, muddy day on the set of the Shiloh documentary 2011”