Beautiful JIM KEY - A HORSE & A MAN Who Changed The World!



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Beautiful Jim Key
Dr. William Key
Mim Eichler Rivas




Dr. William Key (Bill) was born a slave in 1833 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Captain John Key was his master. Upon the Captainís death when Bill was five years old, he willed a certain family of slaves including William to his cousin, John W. Key of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Bill demonstrated a special way with animals as early as six years of age. He also was a great help to the John W. Key family when it was observed that the disabled father of John W. Key was much calmer when Bill was around. However, the place where he really shined was around horses. He was so effective with horses that he was soon being sent to the pasture alone to train the horses. Additionally, he was given special attention because of his work keeping his masterís father company. His master was taught reading, writing, mathematics and science. Martha, his masterís wife, really appreciated the effect Bill had on Johnís father as it saved her from having to deal with the recalcitrant old man. She taught Bill such gentlemanly skills as presentation, elocution and etiquette. These skills would all come to be most valuable to him later when he became an adult and found himself in need of them to succeed as a free man after the Civil War.

The relationship between the John W. Key family and Bill continued to grow stronger and even after the Civil War when the Key family lost everything, Bill, who by then had accumulated quite a sum of money, stepped in and helped send John W. Keyís two sons to Harvard. These are the same two young boys that Bill had followed into the Civil War fighting to protect them from harm. When asked about his unusual generosity toward his masterís family over the years, he is said to have responded, ďI was one of those fortunate men who had a kind master.Ē

Upon returning to Shelbyville after the war, Dr. William Key opened a hospital for horses on a lot he purchased on North Main Street. His reputation of being able to do wonders for horses caused him to be considered a veterinarian even though he had no formal training as such. In five years he was among the most prominent and prosperous individuals in Shelbyville. This was but the first of many such entrepreneur steps that brought Dr. Key increased wealth and standing in the community.

After several successful years in Shelbyville, Dr. Key began to take interest in racehorses and determined to breed the fastest horse in the world. The result of his experiment was a spindle legged foal that was unable to stand for weeks after birth. Yet this pitiful little colt came to be Beautiful Jim Key Ė the educated horse. The rest is history as the horse and the man who taught him through kindness and patience produced a highly successful partnership that entertained audiences and forever changed the way the world looked at animals.

Beautiful Jim Key and Dr. William Key, promoted by Albert Rogers, toured the nation for nine years setting record attendance records wherever they went. Beautiful Jim Key could read, write, spell, do mathematics, tell time, sort mail, cite biblical passages, and debate politics. He even predicted the future when asked to identify Alice Roosevelt, the presidentís daughter. Jim Key spelled out Alice Roosevelt and when an audience member shouted out the name of Nicholas Longworth, he quickly added Longworth to Alice Roosevelt a full two years before they were married.

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