Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee
Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida
Birth, Childhood and Family
Robert Earl Boyd was the oldest son of Solomon Sephus Boyd and Florence Perry Boyd, born January 20, 1902. His six siblings were Livingston, Bessie, Sarah Louise, Annie Pearl, John Andrew, and Everette Jehoy. Several generations of the family lived in the rural community of Lynnville, in southern Tennessee’s Giles County.1
Boyd’s grandparents were Solomon Boyd and Sovinia (Lavinia) Mullen Boyd. They married January 25, 1865, in Memphis, Tennessee. Solomon Boyd was a United States Colored Troops Veteran, serving in the 59th Infantry during the Civil War. He died in 1891. After his death, Lavinia Boyd moved to Memphis to live with a daughter.2
Milky Way Farm’s Impact
Robert Boyd worked for one of the largest employers in Giles County, the Milky Way Farm. Frank Clarence Mars was a successful businessman and owner of the Mars, Inc. candy bar company. He continued his dynasty when he bought 2,805 acres of land in 1931 and built Milky Way Farm. The farm employed nearly 1,000 residents during the Depression and World War II.
Milky Way Farm was known for its Hereford cattle, beef cattle and Hampshire sheep operations. It also became recognized for its Thoroughbred horses. In 1935 Milky Way Farm had the largest number of Thoroughbred stables and barns in the South.5
When Mars died in 1934, his wife Ethel V. Mars continued to run Milky Way Farm with great success. The Farm had its first top-notch horse in 1937 in Forever Yours. Ethel V. Mars took great pride in Kentucky-bred Gallahadion, who won the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 1940.6
Career in Tennessee and Florida
Robert Boyd was a Derby groom and caretaker at Milky Way Farm. After working for Mars, he moved to Florida where he was employed by Magnolia Farms in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida. He also worked as a groom at a riding academy in 1940. He worked as a groom in Florida for twenty years.7
Robert Boyd died on June 2, 1984 and was buried in Rosemount Cemetery, Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee.8 The three Boyd brothers, Robert, John and Everette, worked as grooms for a combined total of eighty-three years and made a significant impact on the horses in their care.
Buck, H. A. n.d. Horses in Training, 1934-1942. New York, NY.
“Draft Registration Cards for Florida, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947: Robert Earl Boyd.” n.d. Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Box:28.
“Florida County Marriages, 1823-1982.” 1936. Tallahassee, Florida. Tallahassee Clerk of Courts.
“Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1910.” Giles County, Tennessee. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.
“General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934: Pension #409909.” n.d. U.S. Civil War Pension Index.
Gorham, Bob. 1973. Churchill Downs 100th Kentucky Derby First Centennial, 1875-1975. Louisville, Kentucky: Churchill Downs.
Leslie W. Whitlock, Interview by Yvonne Giles. 2019. Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries. https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt71bzs15r589. Listen Online
“Milky Way Farm.” n.d. Milky Way Farm. Accessed June 1, 2021. https://www.milkywayfarm.org.
Phelps, Johnny. 1991. Milky Way Farms. Giles Free Press.
“Robert Earl Boyd Sr. (1902-1984) Find A Grave Memorial.” n.d. Accessed June 1, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/188322314/robert-earl-boyd.
“Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.” Duval County, Florida. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.
“Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002.” 1926. Microfilm. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
When citing this article as a source in Chicago Manual of Style use this format: Last name, first name of Author. Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry. n.d. “Title of Profile or Story.” International Museum of the Horse. Accessed date. URL of page cited.
- 1“Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1910.”
- 2“General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934: Pension #409909.”
- 3“Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002.”
- 4“Florida County Marriages, 1823-1982.”
- 5Phelps, Milky Way Farms.
- 6Gorham, Churchill Downs 100th Kentucky Derby First Centennial, 1875-1975.
- 7“Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.”
- 8“Robert Earl Boyd Sr. (1902-1984) Find A Grave Memorial.”