john f. patterson, sr.
John Patterson, Sr., a modest, soft-spoken, unfailingly polite Southern gentleman, was the only child born to postal employee John Calvin Patterson and wife Gussie in Whitfield County, Georgia, on June 14, 1920. A lifelong horse enthusiast, Patterson in the 1940s purchased two Standardbred pacers to be used as saddle horses. Shortly thereafter, he accepted an invitation to drive them in a matinee race in Rome, Georgia. This event ignited a lasting passion for harness racing, and Patterson soon began competing on local matinee circuits in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. He would eventually race at fairs in southern Illinois and western Kentucky before trying his luck at the raceways.
In 1956 Patterson, then owner-operator of a lucrative machine shop in Dalton, Georgia, decided to focus on Standardbreds as a full-time profession. He accepted a training position with 1970 Hall of Fame trainer-driver Sanders Russell, with whom he was able to successfully develop several good trotters.
Two years later, in 1958, after opening his own private stable, Patterson was offered a private training position at Byron Kuth's Merrie Meadows Stable. While employed by Kuth, Patterson trained and drove the ill-fated world-record holder and 1959 Hall of Fame Immortal Merrie Annabelle 2,2:00 ($39,181). The two-year-old filly trotted the second heat of the Hanover Filly Stake in 2:00, establishing herself as the first freshman-trotting filly to clock a "miracle mile" in a race. Sadly, just one week after her success, Merrie Annabelle suffered paralysis due to a dislocated spine. Efforts to save her failed and she died several weeks later. Patterson also developed stakes champion Right Time p,4,1:57.1 ($213,867) who set a track record of 1:58.3h at Batavia in 1961, and Merrie Duke 4,1:59.4f ($301,488), winner of the 1961 American-National Maturity and American Trotting Championship.
Between 1962 and 1968 John Patterson worked for Hall of Fame Immortals Leonard and Helen Buck's Allwood Stable, where he campaigned the 1963 Three-Year-Old Pacer of the Year Overtrick 3,1:57.1h ($407,483). Patterson guided Overtrick to victory in the 1963 Little Brown Jug, where he set an all-age world record for two heats combined of 3:54.4. Overtrick would also win the 1963 Messenger Stake with Patterson at the reins. At that time, Patterson also trained and drove the 1962 Dexter Cup victor Lord Gordon 8,2:00.2h ($320,231) and champion pacer Overcall p,6,1:57.1f ($784,006), winner of the 1965 Goshen Cup and 1966 Battle of Brandywine.
Patterson left Allwood Stable in 1968 to open a public stable in Dalton, Georgia. He developed the New York Sire Stakes champion Lullwater Song 3,2:01.2 ($436,857) and Light N Lively 8,2:02.3h ($473,455), a homebred trotter who raced until age 14, mainly on the New York Metropolitan Circuit.
In addition to training and driving, Patterson served as the District 6 director of the U.S. Trotting Association, president of the Georgia Standardbred Horsemen's Association, and director of the Georgia Horse Foundation. John Patterson, Sr. was inducted into the Living Hall of Fame in 1994. He died on May 16, 2004, just a month shy of his 84th birthday.
Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2006 book, The 2003-2005 Immortals