The Day I met Booker T.

By Ronald Court

OK. Not the Booker T., but Booker T., just the same. And maybe, because I happened to meet this Booker T., maybe that’s why I clicked a link to a page about the Booker T. a couple of years ago. That random act of curiosity was the seed that gave birth to the Booker T. Washington Society, scholarships for students of character and mentoring plans for students to help them develop into leaders of integrity.

I was 20 (Summer of ’62), and winding up a year of putting myself through school at Boston University, taking courses at night and working days. BU had accepted me full-time for the Fall, so, if I were ever to fulfill my boyhood dream of hitchhiking coast-to-coast around the country, this was the time.

It turned out to be about the most life-altering experiences of my life. I may talk about them later, but on to Booker T.

It was Sunday morning in Lexington, KY. I had already hitched from Boston to San Francisco, camped out in Yosemite, saw the Grand Canyon, dug Dixieland Jazz in New Orleans, and sweltered in Atlanta. I wanted to see “blue grass” and thoroughbred horses. I had been dropped off on a road to Calumet Farms, the only horse farm I had heard of.

A car approached. I stuck out my thumb and held up my makeshift shirtback cardboard sign, “PLEASE.” It worked. A mother and her daughter, obviously dressed as though coming from church, pulled over. As we talked and rode, she told me that horse farms were closed on Sundays, but if I had the time, perhaps I would join her and her daughter for lunch at their home, “and afterwords, maybe we can find a way to show you some horses.”

Sure enough, after a lunch salad made with with the biggest, tastiest tomato slices I had ever eaten, she and her daughter took me to Spendthrift Farm, right up to the picture-perfect stables and introduced me to the gentleman waiting for us as “Booker T.” She asked him to bring out his favorite horse so that I could snap a picture.

He returned with a magnificient creature and, as I positioned myself to snap the pic, he said simply, “OK, Jet. Pose.”

With that, Jet Pilot, winner of the 1947 Kentucky Derby, snapped his ears forward and gave me the shot and a thrill of a lifetime.

The more I learn about the Booker T. and of others named for him, I wonder how many are out there. If you are, or know of someone named Booker T. (in addition to Booker T. Jones, of “Booker T. & the MG’s” fame) , I’d especially like to hear from you.

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