Painting of breed’s first world champion goes to Wartrace museum
MURFREESBORO — Visitors to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Museum in Wartrace, Tennessee, will now be greeted with a special color portrait of the breed’s first world grand champion.
Middle Tennessee State University has agreed to perpetually loan a portrait of Strolling Jim, the 1939 World Grand Champion, to the museum in Bedford County. University representatives presented the portrait to museum President Philip D. Gentry and Vice President Paul Cross recently at the Wood-Stegall Center on campus.
The 20-by-24-inch framed portrait of the chestnut gelding had been on display at the MTSU Foundation House next to Tennessee Miller Coliseum on Thompson Lane after being given to MTSU by the Burke family. It was painted by Bill Humphreys in 1940.
Strolling Jim’s connection to Wartrace runs deep. His owner was top trainer Floyd Carothers, who also owned the historic Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace. Strolling Jim died in 1957 and was buried in a pasture behind the hotel.
Gentry said the nearby museum has been located in Wartrace for about three years, having previously been located at the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, Tennessee, site of the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, and also for a time in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
“It’s another wonderful piece to really tie the industry to Wartrace,” Gentry said of the portrait. “We’ve seen several of these that are black and white, but we do not have this (in) color and we do not have this size. This is just an immaculate piece. It’ll be on display right as you come into the museum.”
MTSU has other ties to walking horse history, with the remains of Wilson’s Allen, perhaps the high-stepping breed’s greatest sire, resting on the grounds of the MTSU Horse Science Center near Tennessee Miller Coliseum. Strolling Jim was one of Wilson Allen’s many offspring.
“We’re thrilled that Strolling Jim’s portrait will be showcased at the Tennessee Walking Horse Museum for visitors to enjoy for many years to come,” said MTSU alumnus Andy Womack, a member of the Tennessee Miller Coliseum Board. “It’s certainly appropriate that the portrait be located near the same site where Strolling Jim was laid to rest.”