Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Remembering Black Jack January 19, 1947 - February 6, 1976

Most of my blogs are writings about two legged celebrities and everyday heroes.  Today, however, I have chosen to write about a four legged one named Black Jack.

Black Jack was a coal black Morgan-Quarter Horse mix born January 19, 1947.  He was named for General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing and became the symbol for a fallen leader.

He joined the military on Nov. 22, 1952.  As a foal from Fort Reno, Oklahoma, he was taken to Fort Myer, Virginia and was the last of the Quartermaster-issue horses branded with the Army's U.S. brand. He served in the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
His army serial number was 2V56 that was imprinted on the left side of his neck.  Black Jack was described in a book called "Black Jack  America's Riderless Horse" as a beautiful, sleek and well-muscled, jet black in color with a small, white star on his forehead.

Black Jack would become the most famous "riderless horse" in history having served more than 1000 Armed Forces with Full Honors Funerals, the majority having taken place at Arlington National Cemetery.  Among those he represented were President John F. Kennedy (1963), President Herbert Hoover (1964), President in Lyndon Johnson (1973), and Five star General Douglas MacArthur (1964) having served in four state funerals.

Black Jack at JFK funeral
Black Jack at Hoover funeral
I still remember his impact when watching John F. Kennedy's funeral at the age of 12.  It was the first time I had ever seen a caparisoned (riderless) horse and can recall his beauty as he led the march of JFK's funeral cortege from the White House to St. Matthew's Cathedral on November 25, 1963 and following the service, marched on to Arlington.

During most of Black Jack's funerals, he was accompanied by Army Major General Philip C. Wehle.

Black Jack's 25th birthday party
Nixon letter
Following JFK's funeral, a woman by the name of Nancy Schado took a keen interest in Black Jack.  She was a huge animal lover and was the wife of an army colonel.  Nancy was a very active woman and served as the president of the Army Arlington Ladies.  This organization assigns one of its members to every military funeral held at Arlington.  She took a keen liking to Black Jack while visiting him at the stables one day.  It was the beginning of a long lasting relationship.  She visited him every week.  She also had an annual birthday party for him.  She would bake him a cake and invited the soldiers in the caisson unit to his party.  Black Jack would here her voice and begin kicking the stall in anticipation of her visits.  Former President Richard Nixon was even invited to Black Jack's birthday party (letter shown).  In the Nixon letter, he said of Black Jack "Black Jack has been a poignant symbol of our nation's grief on many occasions over the years.  Citizens in mourning felt a burst of pride in seeing this majestic horse whose quiet dignity and purpose conveyed a simpler yet deeper tribute to the memory of those heroic "riders" who had given so much for our nation. "

Over the years, hundreds of school students would visit this living American symbol.

Black Jack died on February 6, 1976 following a 29 year military career.  He was cremated and his remains were laid to rest in a plot at Fort Myer, Virginia on Summerall Field.  He is one of only two horses in United States history to be buried with Full Military Honors.

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