Acclaimed Wyoming Photographer and Historian, Travel Commission Director Passes at 89
Randall (Randy) Wagner, 89, Cheyenne Frontier Days longest tenured volunteer passed away on May 15, 2023 at the Davis Hospice Center in Cheyenne. He survived his wife of 67 years Betty, she was 89. Wagner’s 60 year association with CFDs is highlighted by his induction to the CFD Hall of Fame in 2012 and Cheyenne Frontier Days Heels in 1978. He was a charter member of the Public Relations Committee and official photographer for over 30 years. In a 1994, Rocky Mountain News article on CFDs 100th birthday celebration, Wagner is singled out as a volunteer who gives his all,” If organizers are looking for a model for the volunteer statue, they might consider Cheyenne writer-photographer Randy Wagner. Wagner photographs the rodeo from inside the arena, often finding himself within 15 feet of the bucking broncs and twirling bulls. He survived a savage goring by a bull in 1985. “Wagner is quoted in the article saying,” It’s going to be an exciting time. I couldn’t imagine living in Cheyenne and not being part of Frontier Days. You have long days and lot of work to do but I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
In addition to his enormous contribution to Frontier Days, Wagner also left his mark professionally with over 27 years of management and leadership with three agencies of the State of Wyoming, highlighted by 15 years with the Wyoming Travel Commission serving 10 of those years as the Director. During his tenue, he served on the Board of Directors of the Travel Industry Association of America and was named to that organization’s Executive Committee and Corporate Strategic Task Force. He was elected Chairman of the National Council of State Travel Directors and was named the U.S. Travel Director of the Year in 1984.
Wagner also served with the Wyoming Recreation Commission, playing an instrumental role in adding Sinks Canyon and Curt Gowdy to the Wyoming State Parks system. In the late 60’s, he produced an award-winning documentary film on the Oregon Trail through Wyoming from Fort Laramie to Fort Bridger. Prior to that, at Wyoming Fish and Game Department, he shot wildlife stills for Wyoming Wildlife Magazine and produced 16mm documentaries for agency’s education division.
Following his career with the State, Wagner formed The Wagner Perspective, a travel industry consulting and freelance photography business. His clients included the Wyoming Division of Tourism and Nebraska’s Great Platte River Road Memorial. He planned and coordinated Wyoming’s participation in the national sesquicentennial celebrations of the 1843 Oregon Trail, the 1847 Mormon Pioneer Trail and the 1849 California Gold Rush. He also supported marketing efforts for a Wyoming Scenic Byway and Backway program. Wagner is a past president of both the Oregon-California Trails Association and the Lincoln Highway Association.
A lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, his passion started when he was growing up in Lander, getting his first bike at age 14. Starting in the early 70’s, he and Betty made trips with a group of local couples to places like the Black Hills, Cody, the Rocky Mountains and far off places like Nova Scotia. US Bankruptcy Judge Pete McNiff rode with Wagner for nearly forty years. “It is fascinating to travel with Wagner because he’s so knowledgeable about Wyoming", McNiff says. Wagner can point out where battles occurred and where pioneers were caught in a blizzard, and he is especially well versed on the Oregon Trail”, McNiff added. Wagner logged over 700,000 miles while traveling all 50 states (except Alaska and Hawaii) as well as tours of Europe, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and Switzerland.
Wagner’s collection of photographs and personal items reside at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center in Laramie, and the Cheyenne Frontier Day’s Old West Museum in Cheyenne.
Mr. Wagner is a proud University of Wyoming alumni graduating in 1959 with a bachelor's degree in professional journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Army, serving in the Corps of Engineers as Division Photographer from 1956-58.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Richard (Dick) Wagner (Eloise), and Hazel McClintock (Howard), his wife Betty, daughter Kelly Jones, and son Kraig Wagner.
He is survived by Kary Wagner (George Foutz) of Hauser, Idaho, and Kriste Sumpter (Michael) of Eagle, Idaho. Randy has five grandchildren (Will Jones, Sam Sumpter, Bob Jones, Maggie Jones, Bobbi Sumpter) and 3 great grandchildren (Ryker, Reya, and Hudson.) He is also survived by a sister Noni Nirider of Lander, a brother-in-law Richard Valent of Cheyenne and a brother-in-law Bob Simon.