Cheryl White, the 1st Black Female Jockey and Cleveland Legend, Passes Away at 65

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Raymond White Jr. announces a memorial for Cheryl White, America’s first black female jockey, who passed away at the age of 65 on September 20.

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Cheryl White

Cheryl was never a great self-promoter, and wasn’t concerned with the politics of racing. She just did her thing. She didn’t understand what she had accomplished. I don’t know that she understood her significance, or place in history.

The memorial is scheduled for October 18 at Thistledown Race Track in Cleveland, where she rode her first race back on June 15, 1971, at age 17. Cheryl’s family would like to create a permanent memorial and foundation in her memory. The foundation will help inspire and introduce horses, horse racing, riding, and other aspects of the industry to children who are underprivileged and at risk, but will be open to all children no matter their background.

To donate to the Cheryl White Memorial & Celebration of Life Party fundraiser, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/8nw94q-cheryl-white?rcid=r01-156952298126-a0f9102975cd41f5&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w. After the memorial service for Cheryl, the balance of funds and any future donations will be put towards the permanent memorial and foundation.

Cheryl was born into a horse-racing family and grew up on a horse farm. Her father, Raymond White Sr., was an accomplished thoroughbred horse trainer, and her mother, Doris, was a racehorse owner.

During the course of her distinguished 21-year career, the pioneering jockey won more than 750 races. In a recent betchicago article, Cheryl was quoted as saying about her first historic race, “I just wanted those gates to open. I wasn’t nervous and knew I’d be first out and get the lead.” Although she was right, Cheryl eventually finished last in her first race, but still made history that day, and that wouldn’t be the last time.

On September 2, 1971, at Waterford Park, Cheryl became the first black woman to win a thoroughbred horse race in the United States. As a thoroughbred jockey, Cheryl also became the first woman to win two races on the same day in two states in 1971, when she rode a winner at Thistledown in Ohio and then at Waterford in West Virginia. She was also the first female jockey to win five races in one day, an historic accomplishment she achieved on October 19, 1983, at the Fresno Fair.

Because of her groundbreaking achievements and for breaking the color barrier in horse racing, Cheryl graced the cover of the July 1971 issue of Jet magazine and the front page of The Plain Dealer on June 16, 1971. She is also in the Appaloosa Hall of Fame, has been nominated for the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Award of Merit by the African American Sports Hall of Fame.

“Cheryl was never a great self-promoter, and wasn’t concerned with the politics of racing,” said her brother, Raymond White Jr. “She just did her thing. She didn’t understand what she had accomplished. I don’t know that she understood her significance, or place in history.”

Cheryl is survived by Raymond; nephews Raymond White III, Christopher Scott, and Luciano White; niece Nikki White; great-nieces Jocelyn White and Sheena White; great-nephew Raymond White IV; and countless racetrack friends that were her extended family.

“Cheryl is a true legend and will be missed terribly by all who love her,” said Raymond. “We are extremely saddened and heartbroken beyond comprehension to have lost Cheryl. She has been taken home by God to join our mother and father, Doris and Raymond White Sr.”

About Raymond White, Kabango Media, LLC
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