My mother, Alice Chandler, and I were scheduled to meet with the Editor-in-Chief of The Blood-Horse April 4 to reflect on her life and the transition of our family’s Mill Ridge Farm. But it was hard that morning to also not reflect on the life of our dear friend Buddy Bishop, who had passed away the previous night after struggling with cancer for more than two years.
It is so rare that families carry on the hard work and legacy of earlier generations. Most of the time, families unravel at the seams for whatever reason. My family is fortunate to have the visible and intrinsic example established by my grandfather, Hal Price Headley, mostly through his industry leadership and through Keeneland and all that it represents. His example was the guiding light for my mother, who also shared her leadership for the betterment of the industry and has built Mill Ridge from 286 acres to represent all that anyone could ever dream. Likewise, she has been the example for me and my siblings—Reynolds, Mike, and Tish—to carry on with Mill Ridge and try to give back to the industry.
Family was an integral part of Buddy Bishop’s character as well. His father, W.T. Bishop, played such a vital role in the construction and development of Keeneland. W.T. Bishop was the first employee of the fledgling racetrack, and was hired in 1936 as its general manager. Buddy grew up on the track, and his family lived in part of what is now the Keeneland clubhouse and offices. Like so many who have the opportunity to associate with Keeneland, his pride ran deep…and his blood, “Keeneland Green.” He would grow to become its counsel, and was recognized with the highest honor of Keeneland Trustee.
One of my fondest memories of Buddy was of him sharing a letter with me from his daughter, Shannon. It was a letter that described where she was in her life and her hope for the future through law school. In it, she described what her family instilled in her and how grateful she was to Buddy and her mother in defining her values. He was so very proud, and we both shed tears of happiness knowing she was in full bloom. She is now working at Buddy’s law firm, Stoll Keenon and Ogden, providing guidance and insight to Buddy’s friends/clients, many of the most distinguished people in our industry. She has earned this opportunity with her natural talents, and the bond that grew with Buddy and his clients is easily transferred to Shannon.
The fact is, any number of people would love to share their memories of Buddy Bishop. As counsel, he represented many of the best in our industry: Keeneland, Claiborne, the Phipps family, Juddmonte, Darley, the Niarchos family, The Jockey Club, Hagyard-Davidson-McGee, Mill Ridge, the Alec Head family, and many, many others. When you worked with Buddy, it was as if no one else existed…as if all of his time was dedicated to you…as if he was your best friend, your confidant, your leader, your spokesman, your rock. He managed to make things right, no matter how complicated the situation.
Truth is, Buddy Bishop played an integral part in the life of so much in this industry, whether you realized it or not. He thread his way largely unnoticed through writing conditions of sales at Keeneland or the framework for The Jockey Club, or the latest stallion syndication, or immigration issues, or political navigation, and on and on. More recently, Stoll Keenon and Ogden donated an enormous amount of time and research toward counsel and structure of the Sales Integrity Task Force. Bishop’s regard for this industry was second to none. He associated with the best because he was the best, and his heart was always in the right place. His unselfishness was demonstrated in every walk of his life and his memory is indelible.
With the transition at Mill Ridge, my family has the gift of our mother being not only such a vital part of our past, but our future because she is active and in wonderful health.
Buddy’s family is not as fortunate and that hurts very much. Yet, Buddy and Shannon and their family shared much together, and even though he has left us way too soon, his family is one of faith. They live in thanks that he did not suffer any more than he did.
Headley Bell is the general manager of Mill Ridge Farm near Lexington.