'Chasing Circles: Henry Hooker dies

 
Henry Hooker, former Chairman of the Iroquois Race Committee

Henry Hooker, former Chairman of the Iroquois Race Committee

 

This article was written by Alex Orr Jr. and published on NJ.com on April 28, 2017.

Henry Hooker, who, in cooperation with his wife, Alice, transformed the Iroquois Steeplechase from a local hunt meeting to one of the keystones of the National Steeplechase Association fixture card and a major benefactor of the Monroe Carell, Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University died at his home Nashville, Tenn. home April 24, 2017.

Hooker, a prominent Tennessee attorney and civic leader, became a member of Hillsboro Hounds in 1963 and became master of that pack in 1975.

In addition to fox hunting, the members of the Hillsboro Hounds also staged the Iroquois Steeplechase in association with the Volunteer State Horsemen's Association.

In 1980, Henry Hooker, the secretary of the VSHA, and Alice Hooker, who chaired the Children's Hospital board, took the steps needed to transform the race meeting into the major fundraiser for the hospital.

The Children's Hospital volunteers took on the responsibility of driving community interest and managing the social side of the races while the horsemen and fox hunters handled the racing side.

Hooker served as chairman of the Iroquois Race Committee until his retirement in 1985. After his retirement, the Friends of the Children's Hospital Committee honored Henry and Alice Hooker with the establishment of the "Alice and Henry Hooker Endowment Fund."

In 2015 he was elected to the Iroquois Hall of Fame.

According to Nashville sources, the merger of the horsemen and hospital group has raised over $8 million for the institution.

Henry Hooker's sporting memoir, "Fox, Fin and Hound" reads like a spoken narrative given by the author in his gentle and amusing tone of voice in which he finds humor in his sporting experiences while often making himself the subject of that humor.

When they lower the American flag to half-staff at the May 13 running of the Iroquois, it will be in memory of the man who is largely responsible for the "Steeplechase" (as the locals call it) as we know it now.