Lexington in Fayette County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
Isaac Burns Murphy
One of the greatest jockeys in the history of American racing, Isaac Burns Murphy was born on a farm in the Bluegrass not far from Lexington in 1861. His parents were enslaved. His mother, America Murphy, was a domestic servant on the farm. His father, Jerry Skillman, a field hand on a nearby farm, enlisted In the Union Army during the Civil War and, under the name Jerry Burns, died a soldier at Camp Nelson in nearby Jessamine County in 1864.
At 13, living in Lexington with his mother, Murphy became an apprentice stable boy to leading trainer Eli Jordan. At 14, he rode his first winner as a Jockey at a country track in Crab Orchard, 50 miles south of Lexington. At 15, in 1876, he was winning races at the Kentucky Association, then only two blocks from here, and at the Louisville Jockey Club, later known as Churchill Downs, and his racing career accelerated. (That same year, likely to honor his maternal grandfather, he changed his last name from Burns to Murphy.)
In the next two decades, Murphy rose to national prominence. He was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys — on Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890
Murphy's success earned him celebrity status and considerable income. He made up to $25,000 a year, and owned a string of Thoroughbreds and properties in Lexington, including a grand home that stood on this Art Garden site. He was a literate man, religious and a Mason, widely respected for his integrity, loyalty and quiet manner. But as he battled weight issues, health problems and riding setbacks — and as changes in racing and society were limiting opportunities for African Americans — his career waned. In 1895, his last year of riding, he had only 20 mounts and two wins. In 1896, at 35, he died of heart failure at his home in Lexington. More than 500 people attended his funeral. His grave, in African Cemetery No. 2 near here, was marked but neglected over time, and in 1978 his remains were reburied at the Kentucky Horse Park, next to those of Man o' War.
Topics. This historical marker is African Americans • Sports.
Location. 38° 2.572′ N, 84° 28.917′ W. Marker is in Lexington, Kentucky, in Fayette County. Marker is on East Third Street north of Midland Avenue (U.S. 60), on the left when traveling east. Marker is located in the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: East 3rd Street & Midland Avenue, Lexington KY 40508, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Murphy House (a few steps from this marker); Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Trailhead (a few steps from this marker); Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden (within shouting distance of this marker); George Washington (approx. 0.4 miles away); William S. Farish (approx. 0.4 miles away); John S. Knight (approx. 0.4 miles away); Lexington (approx. 0.4 miles away); Robert A. Alexander (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lexington.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Isaac Burns Murphy
Also see . . .
1. Murphy, Isaac Burns (1861-1896). Murphy was the first American jockey elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and only one of two black (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
2. Isaac Burns Murphy. Murphy grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where his mother had moved the family after his father, a Union soldier, had died in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. Murphy began racing in 1875 and was one of the first jockeys to pace his mount for a charge down the homestretch – a technique soon described as the “grandstand finish.” He rode upright and urged his mounts on with words and a spur rather than the whip. His win of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs in 1879 catapulted him to national fame. (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
3. 10 Facts About Isaac Burns Murphy (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 24, 2018. It was originally submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 116 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.