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.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Mrs. Stokes's Negro Ball
NKAA Source: Lexington weekly news (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Lexington standard (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Birth of a nation, or the clansman
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Who's who in colored America; a biographical dictionary of notable living persons of Negro descent in the United States [1927, 1933-37]

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Kentucky Negro Press Association
NKAA Entry:  Reid, Daniel Isaiah
NKAA Entry:  African American Horsemen, Articles in Kentucky Newspapers

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Willis, Edward D. (horse trainer & newspaper man),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 23, 2023,

Last modified: 2020-10-28 17:19:19