|Posted on Fri, Dec. 09, 2005, Akron Beacon Journal, www.Ohio.com
Horse trainer broke through racial barriers
Akron's William Seay became legend in sport by making champions
By Marilyn Miller
William Ronell "Junior" Seay was the first black man to win a championship horse show at the Red Milein Lexington, Ky., and one of just a few black trainers to exhibit and win with top saddlebreds in national competition.
"He's a legend. He rose through the ranks as one of the top horse trainers in the country," said Mary Waickman, whom he mentored and helped train horses at Waickman Stables in Medina. "The events he won were comparable to winning the Super Bowl or winning at the Olympics. His was a huge accomplishment -- a black man to show and win in a white man's sport that still had that southern-based good ol' boy mentality."
Mr. Seay once stated that Ohio was more accepting of black horsemen long before they were accepted in other areas. He lived in Akron the past 44 years.
Mr. Seay died Monday of kidney failure at Akron General Medical Center. He was 75.
Born in 1930 in Lebanon, Tenn., he learned about horses from his grandfather and got his first horse trainer job at age 12.
"You can see a pattern after you list one world's champion after another world's champion that Mr. Seay helped develop," said Linda White, who writes for several equestrian magazines, including American Saddlebred. She insists even though he was highly regarded as an "extremely talented horseman," he would have been even more successful in a different era.
"He used to get white horsemen to show the horses he trained because it wasn't politically correct in the racial climate back then," White said. "Once, when the owners insisted he show the horse and he won, they wanted to take him out to dinner. The celebration was cut short when he was not allowed to eat in the restaurant that served whites only."
Mr. Seay was training horses in Michigan when he met and married his wife, Pauline. The couple have four daughters.
"He was a quiet man until the subject of horses or baseball came up, then you had a conversation going on," his wife said. "Horses were his pride and joy."
She said her husband lived a simple life and didn't let the notoriety go to his head. He owned several horses over the years, but his favorite was Stonewall Crescendo, with which he won the championship title in Lexington.
Nothing kept him from his passion for horses.
He was on dialysis three times a week in the last 14 years and survived heart surgery, a gall bladder operation and leg amputation. In 1982, he was kicked and lost sight in his left eye, but in two weeks he was back with that same horse.
"He had a magical way around horses," Waickman said. "He never pushed more than the horse was capable of doing. He would say, 'Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.'"
Horse training was not his job, but his life.
Waickman said her trainer will be remembered as "an icon of the saddlebred world."
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to noon today with the funeral following at the Stewart & Calhoun funeral home, 529 W. Thornton St.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or 800-777-7232 or firstname.lastname@example.org