Billie Lee Shoemaker was born on August 19, 1931 into humble circumstances on a small cotton farm in Fabens, Texas. His first moments of life proved to be difficult, born premature and a mere two pounds, he wasn’t expected to live through the first night. His survival is often credited to his grandmother who, at the age of 92, fashioned a homemade incubator out of heat from an old stove, a shoebox and several blankets which she fastened snugly to her grandson.
Shoemaker won the first of his four Kentucky Derby victories in 1955 aboard Swaps. In the years to come he would win with *Tomy Lee (1959), Lucky Debonair (1965) and twenty-one years later with Ferdinand (1986). At the age of 54, Shoemaker still holds the record of the oldest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.
The Shoemaker: Start to Finish exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum will be open through December 31, 2011. We are so fortunate to have this historic collection in our possession. Not only do we have trophies commemorating his victories, but we also have silks, riding equipment, clothing, photographs, many civic awards, video tapes and giant leather bound scrapbooks which feature original newspaper clippings documenting his very public life.
On August 19, 2011 enjoy our gift to you in honor of what would have been Bill Shoemaker’s 80th Birthday and see the Shoemaker: Start to Finish exhibit.