He was born a slave, but by the time he died at age 75, Missourian Tom Bass had become one of the most accomplished horse riders and trainers on the planet.
Bass - portrayed by actor Walter Coppage - returns to his Midwestern haunts for a conversation as part of the Library's popular Meet the Past series on Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
He will be interviewed by Library Director Crosby Kemper III. The program will be taped by KCPT for later broadcast.
Born to a female slave and her white master in Boone County, Missouri, Tom Bass (1859-1934) grew up around horses. After emancipation and while still a boy, Bass moved to Mexico, Missouri, where he found employment breaking horses and would spend most of his life.
In the 1890s he operated a stable in Kansas City with his brother and became the first African American to ride in the American Royal Horse Show. His horsemanship and his uncanny ability to communicate with these magnificent animals - he was the original "horse whisperer" - made him so famous that he was invited to ride in Europe.
Bass was the winner of countless equestrian awards, but his greatest achievement may have been the invention of the Bass bit, a humane mechanism that protects a horse's mouth during training. It is still in use today.
Actor Walter Coppage is a resident of Kansas City and has worked with most of its local theater companies, as well as appearing in many national radio and television commercials. He previously portrayed jazz legend Charlie Parker for Meet the Past. Among his film credits are All Roads Lead Home, Suspension, The Only Good Indian, and the upcoming Jayhawkers.
Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the program. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.
Major funding for Meet the Past has been provided by the Courtney S. Turner Charitable Trust, Ken and Cindy McClain, and the R.A. Long Foundation.