Shirley E. Flynn

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Shirley Elaine Smith Flynn, known as Shirley E. Flynn (February 7, 1929 - December 8, 2013)[1] was an historian in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who served on the founding board and as director of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. She also wrote the definitive history of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

Museum work[edit]

On September 25, 2008, Flynn was presented the eleventh "Community Spirit Award" at the Old West Museum by Wyoming Tribune Eagle newspaper president and publisher L. Michael McCraken. She was honored for her role in conceiving the idea of the museum, performing the needed research, and helping to establish an annual art sale as the principal fundraiser for the museum. Flynn was museum director from 1987 to 1991. "Just seeing the museum there ... I almost get goose bumps. It's moved so far beyond what I ever dreamed. The exhibits are world-class," she said. The museum opened on July 9, 1978, in an old cinderblock building that volunteers had refurbished. In time, a new building, which attracts some forty thousand persons annually, was constructed.[2]

The museum displays Native American artifacts, period clothing and western art and memorabilia. There are about 150 carriages from all over the United States, many of local western origin and some dating to the American Civil War. Only a portion of the collection is displayed at any given time because of space limitations.[2]

Flynn's writings[edit]

Flynn has written several books on Cheyenne and area history, including Let's Go! Let's Show! Let's Rodeo! The History of Cheyenne Frontier Days (1996). The book declares that the Cheyenne rodeo was a full success from 1897, the first year it was staged. With John Price, she co-authored Cheyenne’s Historic Parks: From Untamed Prairie to a City of Trees. With Bill Dubois, she co-authored The Plains Hotel and Our Heritage: 100 Years at St. Mark’s, a study of the principal Episcopal church in Cheyenne, where Flynn served in the altar guild for forty years.[2] She and Dubois also co-authored We've Worked Hard to Get Here: The First 100 Years of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, a work with the history of numerous local businesses.[3]

Flynn has written articles for The Annals of Wyoming, the history magazine of the Wyoming Historical Society, including "Wyoming Portrait: Renesselaer Schuler Van Tassel" in the spring 1999 edition.[4] Flynn also penned "Cheyenne's Harry P. Hynds: Blacksmith, Saloon Keeper, Promoter, Philanthropist" in the Summer 2001 edition of Annals of Wyoming.[5]

In 1980, Flynn researched and played the role of Mary Todd Lincoln in the first docudrama of the Old West Museum. She also lectures at schools, civic groups, clubs, and historical societies. Flynn got involved as a CFD volunteer [2] when her husband, Lloyd A. Flynn (August 28, 1928—January 31, 2002),[6] served on the general committee during the late 1960s.[2]

Family genealogy[edit]

A devotee of genealogy research,[2] Flynn placed her family records on the Internet. She was born in Spokane, Washington, to John Edward Smith, a Colorado native, and the former Ethel Valentine Grammer, originally from Nebraska, where the couple wed in 1928. Shirley was the oldest of four Smith children, one of whom, John Andrew Smith, died in 1963 at the age of twenty-seven. She moved to Cheyenne in the early 1940s. In 1952, she married Lloyd A. Flynn, the son of Donald Flynn and the former Lamoin Rader and a native of Bismarck, North Dakota. The Flynns had two daughters, Carol Lamoin Flynn Rush of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and Kathryn Elaine Flynn Hauser (born in Cheyenne in 1954) of Washington, D.C., and one son, Lloyd Rader Flynn (born 1955) of Riverton, Wyoming.[1]

Community spirit[edit]

Flynn was a member of Women's Civic League, the CFD Buckle Club, Cowgirls of the West, and the Cheyenne Historic Preservation Board. She was affiliated with the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players and the Laramie County Memorial Hospital Foundation Board. She formerly owned and managed the Wigwam Shop, a gift and jewelry store. She was an avid player of contract bridge.[2]

Flynn explains her commitment to the community: It's a person's obligation to give back to the community in some way. . . . Everyone should be able to find his own niche, whether it's collecting aluminum cans, picking up trash along the highway, or guarding a gate at Cheyenne Frontier Days."[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Obituary of Shirley Flynn. Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Retrieved on December 13, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Flynn pivotal in founding of CFD museum. Wyoming Tribune Eagle, September 21, 2008.
  3. Shirley E. Flynn. Wyoming
  4. ”Annals of Wyoming”, Summer 1999. University of Wyoming.
  5. Western Historical Quarterly.
  6. Social Security Death Index.