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Rodeo performer, trick rider, and Volusia County Sheriff’s Sgt. John McArthur was a familiar sight in DeLand’s annual Christmas parade until his death in 1973. 

Riding atop his all-white horse “Skipper,” McArthur led the parade, astounding crowds with tricks and jumps on his dancing horse. Bo Davenport, his stepson and longtime DeLand community leader, fondly remembers how his stepfather and Skipper would leap over a Ford car to the delight of onlookers.

McArthur, a DeLand native, kept a 15-acre cattle and horse farm adjacent to what is now Candlelight Oaks, a subdivision in southwest DeLand. 

NO ONE-TRICK PONY HERE — John McArthur practices trick-riding on a horse named Patches. McArthur’s skill as a horse trainer helped him cross the color line to compete in Florida rodeos, as men he worked for as a horse trainer got him into competitions, he told a newspaper reporter. McArthur had a 15-acre cattle and horse farm adjacent to what is now Candlelight Oaks, a subdivision in southwest DeLand.

He raised Skipper from a colt into a trained trick and rodeo horse, and competed in Florida rodeo competitions up until 1965, when he became a full-time deputy. Even though segregation was often firmly enforced at the time, McArthur told a newspaper that men he worked for as a horse trainer got him past the color barrier, and into competitions.  

In addition to his horse-training abilities, he was also respected for his long law career. 

One deputy quoted in the DeLand Sun News in 1971 said McArthur was also noted for his skill in handling “sticky situation[s] involving black citizens.”

“It’s alright to tell people they should respect law enforcement, but I’ll tell you it’s a two-way street,” McArthur is quoted as saying. “A law enforcement officer must respect people before he can expect respect from them.”

McArthur recalled digging into his own pockets to pay for cabs home for drivers who had had too much to drink. “All but a few pay me back,” he told the newspaper.

A COWBOY AND HIS GAL — John and Mary McArthur are shown with one of John McArthur’s horses in this family photo.

Although McArthur was a master of de-escalation, he also could handle any situation, one deputy said.

“When Johnny’s authority is seriously challenged, which is very seldom, he won’t come out second best, even if he is 60,” the deputy told the Sun News. 

McArthur died in 1973 at the age of 62.

A NEW ROLE AT THE CHRISTMAS PARADE — John and Mary McArthur are parade marshals in the DeLand Christmas Parade in 1972.

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