A memorial service for Julian Logan “Buck” Wheat, the longtime director of Horsemen’s Relations and the unofficial “Mayor of the Backside” at Churchill Downs, will be held at the home of the Kentucky Derby on Wednesday, Dec. 28.
Wheat, 78, died on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at University of Louisville Hospital of complications from injuries suffered in a fall at his home a day earlier. His life was linked to Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and the horse industry for more than six decades.
The Wednesday memorial service for Wheat is scheduled for 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) in the Triple Crown Room in Churchill Downs’ Jockey Club Suites. Visitation for Wheat is set for Tuesday, Dec. 27, from 12-8 p.m. at Highlands Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Road. Additional visitation is scheduled Wednesday in the Triple Crown Room from 11 a.m. until the memorial service begins.
Those attending Wednesday’s visitation and memorial service at Churchill Downs should enter the track via Gate 1, which is located off Central Avenue adjacent to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Wheat was known simply as “Buck” to friends throughout the horse industry and countless others he had encountered in his unofficial role at as an ambassador for the industry, the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. The son of Thoroughbred trainer Logan Wheat, Buck Wheat had been associated with the historic home of the Kentucky Derby in several roles – including a stretch as a trainer – since he took his first job at the track as an usher at the age of 16. Wheat entered his Horsemen’s Relations post in 1986 and held that position at the time of his death.
He is survived by his children, Kevin Wheat (Kim), Dennis Wheat (Rhonda) and Denise Sohm, and their mother, Barbara Passifume; his grandchildren Matthew, Baili, Heather, Cooper and Jessica; his great grandchild, Aiden; and his companion, Debbie Hunt.
Wheat was preceded in death by his father; his mother, Katherine M. Wheat; and his sister, Margie Atherton.
His family has requested that memorial contributions be made to the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation or the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America.