Hall of Fame, Part I: Gordon Hannagan

This legendary auctioneer presided over some of the biggest auctions in the industry.

This year, AQHA inducted six legends into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame: Gordon Hannagan, Bob Loomis and Walter Fletcher and horses Hollywood Dun It, Indigo Illusion and Streakin La Jolla.

“We are honored to welcome these six people and horses into an elite group of inductees,” says AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway Jr.

And America’s Horse Daily is honored to introduce them to you. Here’s a look at the first inductee:

Gordon Hannagan

John Gordon Hannagan has called many of the premier horse and livestock sales in the country, from the King Ranch to Ruidoso Downs, from the All American Quarter Horse Congress to the Breeders Classic. He honed his legendary auctioneering skills in little Penfield, Illinois, before tackling the big sales in 39 states and Canada.

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Born March 12, 1931, the youngest of 10 children, Gordon grew up on a farm near Penfield, where he quickly learned the rewards of working hard. He got his first horse at 8 and bought his first horse at 11, never dreaming that one day he would preside over some of the biggest auctions in the industry and count as friends some of the most influential horse owners in the industry.

Gordon bought and sold horses to headliners like John Wayne, Loretta Lynn and George Strait, and was a good friend of people such as legendary auctioneer Ike Hamilton and Benny Binion, owner of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas and the Binion Ranch in Montana.

But what is even more important to Gordon, however, is that he has such a wonderful family.

Gordon and wife Jan have been married 56 years. They raised six children – daughters Mary, Patty and Jody, and sons Eddie, Jim and Buddie – and now have more than a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Today, the entire family is involved in Hannagan Farms and Gordyville USA, a premier venue in Gifford, Illinois, with two 100-by-270-foot arenas with room for 650 portable stalls. The family hosts numerous events and horse shows, including a huge AQHA Thanksgiving show, the Gordyville Breeders Cup National Reining Horse Association show and the Central States Rodeo Finals.

That is a long way from where he started buying horses and then selling them.

“As kids, my brother and I ran a popcorn and peanut stand at the local sale barn,” he says. “By the time I was 11, I’d saved $5 and kept it hidden at home. One Friday, I went to the sale barn and – as usual – rode the ponies and small horses, to get them ready for the sale. I fell in love with a little blue roan mare. When I asked the manager how much they wanted for her, he said $55 – a fortune! I told him that I had $5, and I’d give him $3 and pay him $1 a week for the next 52 weeks. He put his hand out, and we shook on it. I named her ‘Dandy’ and brought her home.”

Gordon became an auctioneer by chance, when he was at a Saturday sale and an ailing auctioneer needed a substitute. Someone volunteered Gordon to help. The head auctioneer asked Gordon if he was an auctioneer, to which he honestly replied, “No, but I can sell these horses.” The auctioneer let him up on the stand, and a year later, Gordon was working regularly. His first big break came when he was asked to work the American Quarter Horse sale at the Chicago International Livestock Show Sale, and since then, he has become a legend among his peers, colleagues and horsemen everywhere.

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He began his own breeding program in 1951 with a roping mare. And in the years since, he and his wife have stood a number of top sires and bred world and AQHA Champions Super Marietta and Tina Tardy. He has been involved with halter, performance and racing American Quarter Horses, and his wife and children continue to show horses.

Gordon was a founder of the Illinois Quarter Horse Association, which he has served as president and vice president, and he is in the Illinois Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

But he does not take a lot of credit for what he has accomplished: “Just call me lucky!”