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

Irvin, Theophilus, Jr.

(born: Aug. 22, 1915  -  died: Mar. 31, 2009) Theophilus Irvin, Jr. was the first African American to become a Kentucky Racing Commissioner, issuing  licenses and testing horses for drugs violations. He served in that post from 1979-1995.

Irvin had been working with horses since he was a boy  when he worked with his horse-trainer father. In 1931, when Theophilus Jr. was 15 years old, he began breaking horses at Hickory Farm. He got his first trainer's license in 1947 at Narragansett, RI and later trained horses for owners such as J. Graham Brown and Keene Daingerfield.

Theophilus Irvin, Jr. was the son of Ada Morton Irvin and Theophilus Irvin, Sr. The family of four lived on 511 Chestnut Street in 1920, according to the U.S. Federal Census,and in 1932 at 549 Thomas Street  [source: Polk's Lexington (Kentucky) City Directory]. His birthdate is given as August 22, 1915 in the Kentucky Birth Index. He was married to Olive Bell Irvin (1914-1996).

For more see J. Hewlett, "Theophilus Irvin, 93, dies - first African-American employed by the Ky. racing commission," Lexington Herald-Leader, 4/2/2009, Obituary section, p. D5; L. Taylor, "Winner of a different sort," Lexington Herald-Leader, 4/28/1999, p.  A6; and "Theophilus Irvin, Jr." at The Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry website.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Polk's Lexington (Kentucky) city directory
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)

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NKAA Entry: Irvin, Theophilus, Sr.

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“Irvin, Theophilus, Jr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 19, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-03-11 20:13:58