The local chapter of a national organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating Western history is celebrating its 60th anniversary today.

The Tucson Corral of the Westerners will hold a gala tonight. The featured speaker will be Charles Herner, an authority on the Rough Riders. His focus will be Alexander O. Brodie, a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War who went on to become governor of the Arizona territory.

Westerners International was formed in 1944 in Chicago by Leland Case, editor of The Rotarian magazine, and Elmo Watson, an educator and newspaperman, to "promote the study and understanding of Western history."

Chapters of the organization, known as "corrals," have monthly meetings called "roundups" in which they have dinner and hear from an expert on a subject related to Western history.

The headquarters for Westerners International, known as the "Home Ranch," is in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

The Tucson Corral of the Westerners was started in 1953 by Leland Case, who had moved here, and others. The corral held its first meeting at the Frampton-Stone Cafeteria on Fourth Avenue.

In 1960, the Tucson Corral launched a publication called "The Smoke Signal." It is usually published twice a year, on subjects like military posts, Spanish missions and even gangsters such as John Dillinger, who was captured in Tucson.

The Tucson Corral now meets regularly at Viscount Suite Hotel.

Past "sheriffs" include some of Arizona's top history writers, including Don Bufkin, Don Schellie, Bernard Fontana, James E. Officer and James S. Griffith.

If you go

• What: 60th anniversary of the Tucson Corral of the Westerners

• When: Registration starts at 5:45 p.m. today; program at 6:30 p.m.

• Where: Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway.

• Ticket price: $30

• For more information: 795-9484

David Leighton is a historical writer for the Arizona Daily Star. Contact him at