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A Kentuckian Through and Through - William M. Munford

by Bob Funkhouser

Born September 28, 1932 to William M. Munford Sr., and Margaret Campbell Munford, William "Bill" Munford was a lifetime resident of Taylor County, Ky., until his death, Friday, June 11 at the age of 77.

Munford grew up on a farm and showed cattle at the Kentucky State Fair. His love of his state’s fair began at an early age; however, he didn’t realize just what an impact it would have on his life, nor did he imagine what an impact he would have on it.

While he was raised on his parents’ Campbellsville dairy farm and had a great appreciation of all things agriculture, Munford gravitated to the funeral home business after attending the University of Kentucky, majoring in agriculture, and serving his country in the United States Air Force. In 1954 he graduated from the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science and held a Funeral Director and Embalmer license since ’55.

From the funeral business Munford took a promotional position with Carnation Milk, working with Kentucky dairy farmers. Along the way he also became involved in raising American Saddlebreds and had a 300-acre farm with an 11-stall barn and an indoor arena in Taylor County, which he owned until 1979.

One of several turning points in his life came in 1957 when his affiliation with the American Legion landed him the manager’s job at the local Legion-sponsored Taylor County Fair Horse Show when its longtime manager died. He was bitten by the management bug and began working with Leon Simms at the Kentucky State Fair in the early ‘60s. Munford joined the Kentucky Association of Fairs and Horse Shows, becoming president in 1963 and later serving as its treasurer for 13 years. He also became a national consultant to Fair Publishing, the company that supplies fairs and horse shows across the country with ribbons and trophies.

The year 1968 would be an important one for the American Saddlebred industry. That’s the year Munford obtained his American Horse Show Association (AHSA) stewards’ license and was hired as the manager of the Rock Creek Horse Show, which was looking to step up its stature. His success at Rock Creek launched him into other top shows such as Pin Oak, Statesville, Roanoke, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Music City, Hollywood Charity and Chicago’s Great American.

His home state came calling and in 1972 William M. Munford became the manager of the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show, a position he held for 28 years, serving under 10 different governors.

One of Munford’s earliest improvements was raising the prize money to an unheard of level. His networking and friendships with business owners and horse owners alike proved invaluable to making the World’s Championship Horse Show the best paying event of its kind in the country.

Never wanting the spotlight for himself, Munford was always quick to credit his staff and the trainers and owners for the success of the World’s Championship Horse Show. He made tough decisions and always tried to be fair to both the well-known and the lesser known.

One of the people he gave a lot of credit to was Scarlett Mattson who had worked with Munford since 1978 and succeeded him as manager for the World’s Championship Horse Show.

"Bill was so friendly and he enjoyed being with people," explained Mattson. "He just had a friendly personality and he would always try to help people whenever he could.

"I think we got along so well because we were alike in many ways; we both loved the horses and the fair. Those two things meant a lot to him. He grew up in this state and they were always a part of his life."

After retirement as manager of the World’s Championship Horse Show, Munford stayed on as a consultant for the development and coordination of sponsorships, something that he was quite good at.

A member of the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame and recipient of many industry awards including the UPHA Associate Member, ASHA Meritorious Service Award and the ASHA Wing Commander Medal, Munford was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Betty Jane Durham; a son, David Lynn Munford; and two brothers, Donnie Munford and Roger Munford. He is survived by daughters Jane Miller Munford and Debbie Jo Scott as well as grand and great-grandchildren.

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