Josephine Abercrombie, 95, died peacefully at her home on Pin Oak Stud in Woodford County, Kentucky, on Jan. 5, just 10 days shy of her birthday.
Born Jan. 15, 1926, in Kingston, Jamaica, Josephine greeted every new day of her extraordinary life with the quest to see what came next. The only child of Texas oilman and Cameron Iron Works founder J. S. “Mr. Jim” Abercrombie and Lillie Frank Abercrombie, Josephine spent her childhood in Texas.
At the age of seven, Josephine’s love of horses led her to begin showing American Saddle Horses. This was the start of an illustrious career where, as a young woman, Josephine became a record holder at Madison Square Garden for the most blue ribbons in a single season, winning 17 out of 20 classes. She was also one of only a handful of amateurs to show a World Grand Champion.
Her passion for the sport, combined with her strong desire to support civic projects, led Josephine to join her father in creating the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in the mid-1940s. This highly successful Houston ﬁxture on the national circuit dedicated its support to Texas Children’s Hospital, which Mr. Abercrombie had played a major role in establishing.
Josephine’s success on the horse show circuit eventually led her to major competitions in Louisville and Lexington, Ky., where she fell in love with the land and being surrounded by horses. In a short time, she began to turn her energies toward Thoroughbred breeding and racing. In the 1950s, she and her father purchased a nearly 4,000-acre farm, which they named Pin Oak, in Woodford County, Kentucky, and established a Thoroughbred breeding and farming operation. Josephine quickly developed a deep respect and passion for the land and all it nourishes.
After 35 years on the original Pin Oak, where they grew tobacco and bred Simmental and White-faced Hereford cattle in addition to the Thoroughbred operation, Josephine decided to move to a smaller 750-acre farm just down the road to focus solely on Thoroughbreds.
The new farm, named Pin Oak Stud, became a labor of love for Josephine. She relished the daily interactions on the farm and enjoyed the tranquility and mix of wildlife, along with the constant companionship of her beloved Weimaraner dogs. A hands-on owner, Josephine was present at many of the births of her Thoroughbreds and adored watching the young foals develop. She was active in the early schooling of young racehorses and eager to see her blue and gray racing silks, the school colors of her alma mater Rice University, in competition on the racetrack. Josephine always wanted what was best for her horses, her farm, and for all the people who cared for and were involved in their well-being.
To date, nearly 70 stakes winners have been bred or raced by Pin Oak Stud, including Classic winners in America and England and Grade 1 stakes winners in three countries. A source of great pride for Josephine was racing some special homebreds, such as Eclipse champion females like Laugh and Be Merry and Confessional as well as top colts who went on to become successful stallions, including Peaks and Valleys and Broken Vow.
For nearly 15 years, Pin Oak Stud sponsored the graded Valley View Stakes at Keeneland, which she won twice with homebreds. Recognized as the National Breeder of the Year, Josephine also has been honored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders with the Hardboot Award as well as the William T. Young Humanitarian Award.
Additionally, she was inducted into the Texas Horseracing Hall of Fame. In 2018, Josephine was the Honor Guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America in appreciation for her “enduring sportsmanship, acumen and vision, and her devotion to the loftiest principles established by earlier leaders on the Turf.”
With a strong sense of responsibility to future generations, Josephine was passionate about conservation and education. She provided generous philanthropic support of civic, educational, and Thoroughbred industry projects. In addition to her generosity to her alma mater Rice University, it was the founding of The Lexington School that was perhaps her crowning achievement. There are legions of grateful parents, alumni, and students whose lives were all enriched by the educational journey sparked by this institution.
Late in her life, Josephine revisited her lifelong love of ballroom dancing and spent many years training for and competing in ballroom dancing competitions all over the country. Her zest for life and quest for new challenges never faded.
Josephine Abercrombie is survived by two sons, George Anderson Robinson IV and Jamie Abercrombie Robinson, as well as grandchildren George Anderson Robinson V and Blair Abercrombie Robinson.
Funeral arrangements are private.
For those wishing to honor Josephine Abercrombie’s memory, contributions can be made to The Lexington School, attention Una McCarthy, 1050 Lane Allen Road, Lexington, KY 40504; Woodford Humane Society, attention Katie Hoffman, P.O. Box 44, Versailles, KY; or the Thoroughbred Charities of America, attention Erin Crady, P.O. Box 910668, Lexington, KY 40591.