From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Willis, Edward D. (horse trainer & newspaper man)

(born: 1870  -  died: 1930) 

Edward D. Willis was one of the most noted trainers in the history of harness racing and one of few African Americans to drive trotters on the Grand Circuit. He set a world record of 2:19 1/4 for yearling trotters with Miss Stokes, and later lowered the record another quarter of a second with Peter Volo.

Willis was employed at the Patchen Wilkes Farm on Winchester Pike in Lexington, KY, owned by millionaire Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes from New York. He had previously worked for horse breeder Robert P. Pepper in Frankfort, KY. He resigned from his job at Patchen Wilkes Farm in 1914.

Willis's second career was editor and publisher of the Lexington Weekly News, a newspaper in Lexington that succeeded the Lexington Standard. He began as editor of the newspaper in 1912. Willis was also an activist and led a protest against the 1916 movie, Birth of a Nation, by D. W. Griffith. He was on the committee that created Douglass Park in Lexington.

For more see the following articles from The Lexington Leader, "Willis was famous Negro horse trainer," 12/06/1930, p. 1; "Ed Willis quits Patchen Wilkes," 3/10/1914, p. 8; "Good advice from Colored editor," 10/25/1912, p. 4; and "Lexington news," 12/22/1912, sec. 1, p. 5. See also Who's Who in Colored America, 1927 and The Daily Aesthetic.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Willis, Edward D. (horse trainer & newspaper man),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-09 14:40:01