Jimmy A. Williams, legendary riding master at Flintridge Riding Club for nearly four decades who trained horses and riders for the Olympics and other international competition, has died.
He was 76.
Williams died of respiratory failure Sunday at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan. He had undergone his second heart bypass surgery Oct. 4.
A rider from the age of 3, Williams was named Horseman of the Year in 1960 by the American Horse Shows Assn. and in 1977 by the California Professional Horsemen’s Assn.
In 1989 he became the first recipient of the American Horse Shows Assn.'s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Tiffany-designed trophy, a sterling silver cowboy hat, was named for him.
Williams was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in Tampa, Fla., and recently received the Vaquero Award of the California Reined Cowhorse Assn.
Born in Elsinore and raised in El Monte, Williams dropped out of school after the eighth grade and showed horses for his horse-trader father at the old Los Angeles Horse and Mule Auction.
“Dad carried a handful of rocks. If I rode sloppy, I’d get hit with one,” Williams once told The Times. “He wanted me to sit straight, like an old Spaniard. He taught me to ride like a gentleman.”
At 22, Williams became a stunt double for film star Tyrone Power, riding in such Westerns as “Jesse James.”
Years later, he trained horses for Hollywood films, most notably Disney’s “The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit” and “The Horse With the Flying Tail.”
He served in the Army in Italy during World War II, winning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star and learning European dressage when he was stationed with the 2610 Remount Station near Florence.
Williams opened a training stable in Escondido, and in 1956 went to Flintridge, a highly respected riding club organized in 1922 by four Pasadena families.
His first Olympic competitor was Mary Mairs Chapot in the late 1960s, followed by World Cup, Grand Prix and international champions Robert Ridland, Mason Phelps Jr., Anne Kursinski and Susan Hutchison, who gave up an Olympic berth to work for Williams.
“If I had all the money in the world, I would do the same thing I’m doing now and work just as hard,” Williams told The Times in 1986 as he neared 70. “I get tired, but I feel good about it.”
Williams had a reputation as a ladies’ man and he was married six times. He whisked around horse shows in a golf cart with a sign proclaiming, “Jimmy Williams is a clean old man . . . amen.”
A book on Williams’ life is being prepared for publication next year, according to his longtime friend Alan F. Balch.
Williams is survived by a daughter, Linda Rae Simons of Carson City, Nev., and his stepfather, Ben Eiland of El Monte.
At Williams’ request, no funeral is planned. Memorial donations can be made to the American Horse Shows Assn., 220 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017, or to the U.S. Equestrian Team, Gladstone, N.J.