Friends, Associates Pay Tribute to Sam Huff at Memorial Service

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“Sam Huff saved the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry in West Virginia.”

That declaration was made by Ken Lowe, the chairman of the West Virginia Racing Commission, as approximately 150 friends and business acquaintances gathered Monday afternoon at the Middleburg Community Center in Middleburg, Va. to pay tribute to Robert Lee “Sam” Huff. The Pro Football Hall of Fame football player and Thoroughbred owner and breeder died Nov. 13 from complications of dementia in Winchester, Va.

Lowe was one of several speakers at the service, which was held just a few furlongs from the farm where Huff lived on with his longtime partner Carol Holden.

Among them was J.W. Marriott, Jr., the 89-year-old executive chairman of Marriott International, who fondly recalled Huff's long association

with the company as the vice president for special markets. He told the story about Huff's persistent request for one of the parking spots at Marriott headquarters that were reserved for Marriott board members. Shortly after Mr. Marriott granted Huff's wish, several other vice presidents complained. So, Mr. Marriott told those who complained that those spots were reserved “for board members and anyone else in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Leonard Shapiro, a former sports writer and editor at The Washington Post, who co-authored Huff's autobiography “Tough Stuff,” talked about Huff's upbringing in a coal mining camp near Farmington, WV.

Frank Herzog, one of Huff's longtime radio broadcast partners covering the Washington Redskins, shared tales of their time together in press boxes across the country. (Huff spent more than 30 years as a broadcaster for the team.)

The 35th edition of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, co-founded by Holden and Huff in 1987, was held Oct. 9. The event has now generated more than $29 million in purses for the breeders and horsemen of West Virginia. In recent years, Huff served as the chairman emeritus; Holden still serves as president.

Lowe read an official resolution honoring Huff from the West Virginia Racing Commission that read in part:

“Sam Huff's efforts grew the West Virginia Breeders Classics into a premier event, bringing local and national television coverage to showcase the State of West Virginia, Jefferson County, Charles Town and the hard working people of the racing and breeding industries of West Virginia…The West Virginia Racing Commission would like to issue this resolution in honor of Sam Huff for his support, contributions and unwavering dedication to the Thoroughbred racing industry, the West Virginia Racing Commission and the State of West Virginia.”

Also in attendance was trainer Graham Motion, who trained Huff's stakes-winning filly Bursting Forth.

The service concluded with some personal remarks from Huff's namesake and grandson Robert Lee Huff III and music provided by the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church's gospel chorus.

Contributions in Huff's name may be made to Aftercare Charles Town, PO Box 136, Ranson, WV 25438. The 501(c)(3) organization is responsible for rehoming Thoroughbred racehorses that have raced at Charles Town.

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