Jim Shoemake Dies

AQHA Past President Jim Shoemake died June 28.

American Quarter Horse Association

“I think that if I could have a legacy, it would be that for one who loves and owns and raises Quarter Horses but is not an active participant in showing – that kind of individual can still make a positive contribution to the American Quarter Horse Association,” Jim said.

AQHA Past President Jim Shoemake of Saint Louis, died June 28 of leukemia.

Jim Shoemake never competed in a show ring, raced, trained or judged horses; however he was truly passionate about horses. He decided to become involved with the Association to share his passion with his family and future generations to come. He proved that there’s a place for everyone at AQHA, especially those who simply love horses. The attorney who began his journey because of his passion for American Quarter Horses soon became an influential person in AQHA, the American Horse Council and the equine industry as a whole.

“First thing you know, you’re on the board of the Missouri Quarter Horse Association, then you’re president of the Missouri Quarter Horse Association – you know how those stories go,” Jim told The American Quarter Horse Journal in 2008, the year he was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

Jim’s story led him to a national director position with AQHA, then to a place on the AQHA Executive Committee in 1998 and the presidency in 2002-2003.

Since 1994 he served on various AQHA committees. He was a member of the international, finance, investment oversight, public policy and nominations and credentials committees, in addition to being a member of the racing council. After serving as AQHA president, Jim went on to serve as a chairman of the American Horse Council Board and later was elected as Trustee Emeritus and continued to serve AQHA as a member of the finance and the investment oversight committees.

During Jim’s vice presidency, AQHA was sued over its embryo transfer rule. The Executive Committee eventually settled the embryo transfer lawsuit, allowing horse owners to register more than one of a mare’s offspring each year, with no damages awarded. But it was Jim’s experience with legal matter that became invaluable during that time of turmoil.

“Getting that resolved, changing our rules and regulations to reflect that change, was something that I was proud of,” Jim said. “Having been for over 40 years a lawyer in a lot of courtrooms around the United States, I didn’t want some judge deciding what we were going to do, so that was why I thought (settling) was a good achievement.”

Jim, who was licensed to practice in three states, said the settlement saved AQHA from the risk of possibly paying millions of dollars to the plaintiffs.

Born into a farming family in Missouri, Jim graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and then joined the United States Army. After military service, he returned to St. Louis and married Rita, the younger sister of an old schoolmate, before entering law school at St. Louis University. After graduation, he worked in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of Justice before returning to St. Louis as an assistant U.S. attorney. He also practiced privately with the law firm Guilfoil, Petzall and Shoemake.

Jim considered himself as a family man first, and enjoyed sharing his horses with his grandchildren, as he shared them with his daughters before that.

Jim and Rita’s youngest daughter, Sarah, showed extensively in amateur competition. She is an AQHA director and member of the judges committee. Sarah was also an AQHYA officer.

Although neither Jim nor his two older daughters, Susan and Kathy, competed, they enjoy riding and breeding American Quarter Horses. The Shoemakes have owned an All American Quarter Horse Congress pleasure futurity champion, a band of broodmares, including a mare that has won three world championships, and a stallion, Dee Invitation by Invitation Only.

“I love the Quarter Horses, and I find them to be more than anything the thing that relaxes me and brings me down to a tranquil sort of existence,” Jim said. “(My daughters) and I used to, particularly in the fall, saddle up and be gone so long – just riding through the woods, watching the leaves fall from the tree and just talking as father and daughters.”

Jim hoped he beat a path of contribution for those who don’t care to compete in the show pen or on the racetrack to follow.

“I think that if I could have a legacy, it would be that for one who loves and owns and raises Quarter Horses but is not an active participant in showing – that kind of individual can still make a positive contribution to the American Quarter Horse Association,” Jim said. “I hope that my story will serve as inspiration to others who aren’t exhibitors or trainers but who can make a real contribution through their business experience, their intellect, their enthusiasm, their energy, and that’s what I’d like to portray.” 

Jim is survived by his wife, Rita; three daughters, Susie Klemm, Kathy Birchfield and Sarah Shoemake Doles, and their spouses; and 11 grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Bob Shoemake.

Read Jim's full obituary.

Jim’s life will be celebrated at an open house on Friday, July 7, from 4-7 p.m., at the Missouri Athletic Club, 405 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63102. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the American Quarter Horse Foundation, P.O. Box 32111, Amarillo, Texas 79120.