by Derick Mann
Looking at the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse, the name Brantley is found throughout. Whether it’s owning, exhibiting, or breeding, Charles Brantley has done it all and with great success. For all the work Brantley has done and continues to do with the Tennessee Walking Horse, he is being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. This will be the first time a person has been inducted for their accomplishments in the walking horse industry. This feature is a tribute to a man who has dedicated most of his life to giving life to the Walking Horse Industry.

When asked how he became involved in the world of Walking Horses, Charles Brantley simply replied “ I was born into it.” The Brantley family’s involvement with the Tennessee Walking Horse all started in 1903 with the purchase of a horse that wouldn’t trot. The horse that would only pace and had been a major disappointment to breeders would become the foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse known to all as Allen F-1. Allen was purchased by James R. Brantley, Charles’ grandfather, and was used to sire the well known horse Roan Allen F-38.

" Allen F-1 was never shown, but Roan Allen F-38 was shown everywhere." recalls Brantley while looking back at the lives of these two monumental horses. Charles Brantley never knew Allen F-1 and vaguely remembers Roan Allen F-38, but he is very familiar with Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. who was sired by Roan Allen.

“ In 1939 my grandfather, James Brantley, was asked to lead the parade for the very first Celebration on Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. That year, Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. won the get of sire class and would go on to win this class five out of the first six celebrations.” recalls Brantley. Breeding and showing great horses would not be the only contribution made by the Brantley’s to the early history of the walking horse. In 1935 Charles’ grandfather along with Charles’ father, J. French Brantley helped to establish the Breeder’s Association . It was only natural that Charles Brantley follow the tradition set by his father and grandfather of breeding, raising, and showing walking horses.

Charles Brantley started showing halter colts in the National Celebration when he was just a teenager. The onset of World War ll temporarily halted Charles’ career in the walking horse industry. After high school, Charles didn’t wait to be called to serve his country, he volunteered and joined the navy. The two years Charles would spend serving in the U.S. Navy would be the only time he would not show in the Celebration, except when he and his father judged the colt classes. In 1946 Charles returned home with intentions to go into the breeding business as well as training walking horses. Unfortunately, Charles’ ambition to train horses would end when he contracted a circulation problem in his legs and had to reluctantly give up riding. Charles did not let his medical problem damper his passion to be a part of the future of the walking horse, instead it would make him even more dedicated to the breeding side of the horse business. Together with his father, a superb horseman and veteran judge, Charles would begin the journey that would one day make him a legend.

When Charles Brantley returned home to the quaint Noah Community in Coffee County following the end of WWII, Brantley Farm was operating in full swing. It would be during the post war years that Brantley Farm would become one of the top breeding facilities in the industry.

" We have had at least 300 horses pass through here." comments Brantley on the number of horses that have been through Brantley Farm over the past ninety-nine years of it's existence. At the time of Charles’ return, Brantley Farm was standing four stallions, one of which was the great Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. Charles and his father would continue to breed Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. up until the horse’s death.

In 1949 the Brantley’s signed a contract with C.C. Turner to breed the legendary 1947 and 1948 World Grand Champion Merry Go Boy. Several outstanding horses would be bred from Merry Go Boy at Brantley Farm such as 1959 and 1960 World Champion Pony Go Boy's Wonder, 1959 Reserve World Grand Champion Go Boy’s Invasion, and Go Boy’s Tallulah.

“ Of all the horses I’ve raised or shown, Go Boy’s Tallulah was probably the most special to me.” states Brantley. “ Tallulah won both as a two and three year old mare and amateur classes.” In 1953, Charles Brantley handled the Weanling World Champion, Sun's Smiling Sue. Show by show and blue by blue, horses from Brantley Farm were becoming more and more predominant in the walking horse world.

The year 1955 would bring about an uncertain future for the thriving breeding operation. The contract between C.C. Turner and Brantley Farm was canceled and Merry Go Boy would no longer stand at historic Brantley Farm.

“ My father asked me ‘What are we going to do now?’ after we lost the rights to breed Merry Go Boy,” recalls Brantley. “ I told him that we have twenty of the world’s best mares and we can raise a world grand champion.” It was that kind of determination that kept the Brantley family a predominant force in the breeding of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Brantley Farm would continue to breed and exhibit champion horses. In fact colts from Brantley Farm have gone on to capture world championships in every category from Sire of a World Grand Champion to Reserve World Grand Champion.

Sadly in 1982, Charles’ father, J. French Brantley passed away. Charles then took charge of Brantley Farm and continues to be to this day. Brantley Farm has now become a successful broodmare and foal operation and at the moment has 8 out of 10 mares in foal. “ I'll do this as long as I’m able.” states Brantley concerning how long he intends to run the farm where Allen F-1 once stood.

Charles Brantley has remained busy in recent years, whether it is receiving awards for his accomplishments or the achievements of his horses. Gen's Genessa, a horse owned by Brantley, won the 1998 Reserve World Grand Champion Yearling Filly. Also in 1998, the Brantley's weanling filly Gen's Genevieve won the Reserve World Grand Championship in the weanling filly class. In 1999, Brantley was inducted into the Celebration Hall of Fame. The following year Gen’s Genessa would win the Top Graduate award offered by TWHBEA for a colt nominated and kept eligible to show as a weanling, yearling, 2 year old, and 3 year old. At the 2001 Celebration, the Brantley’s horse Fashion Watch claimed a world championship. Who knows what Charles Brantley has in store for the 2002 show season.

Breeding and showing is not the extent of Charles’ contribution to the walking horse industry. Charles has been involved in all aspects of the walking horse industry. He is a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeder’s and Exhibitors Association, State of Tennessee Walking Horse Association, the Tennessee Horse Council, and a charter member of the Walking Horse Owners’ Association and Pleasure Walking Horse Association of Tennessee.

An example of Charles’ never ending support for the growth of the walking horse industry is the Manchester Lions Club Horse Show. For over forty years, Charles has helped organize and promote the Manchester show. A strong supporter of The Celebration, Charles has seen the ever growing show go from a three night show to an eleven night show and from a Saturday night attendance of 300 to an attendance of 30,000. For his generosity and support, Charles received a certificate of appreciation for his contributions to the Tennessee Walking Horse Museum in 1993. Also in 1993 Charles received the very first Heritage Award from TWHBEA for all of his work and progress in the walking horse industry and his donation of original documents that reveal the heritage of the walking horse. No matter if it’s showing, breeding, selling, or promoting, Charles Brantley has helped to expand, promote, and give life to nearly every facet of the walking horse business.

The walking horse industry is not the only organization that benefits from Brantley’s participation and dedication, Charles Brantley has served various positions in local government. For 12 years Brantley served as County Commissioner and 22 years as Road Commissioner in Coffee County. Another great accomplishment in Charles Brantley’s life, especially in this day and age, is being married 55 years to his wonderful wife Nellie, whom he met in high school. Nellie wrote Charles while he was away serving in the Navy and when he returned they tied the knot. Despite the illustrious list of awards and honors that Charles Brantley would receive in his lifetime, the one he is most proud of is being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame which will take place in February.

“ I really enjoyed judging the breeder’s class at the Celebration and I am very proud to have raised a world champion in every class from weanling to reserve world grand champion in the stake class, “ comments Brantley regarding the most memorable and proud moments of his life, “but being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame is definitely the one I’m most proud of.” The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is a non profit organization that was started to recognize the outstanding achievements of Tennesseans in the realm of sports and to perpetuate the memory of their careers. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame also provides a Hall of Fame to for the display of mementos commemorating the careers of the inductees and the contributions made by the inductee. Charles Brantley was chosen for this honor along with pro football players,professional baseball players, Olympic medalists, and other champions of various sports. The dedication that Charles Brantley and the generations before him have shown towards the walking horse makes him without a doubt the perfect person to represent the walking horse industry in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Charles and Nellie Brantley still live in the beautiful Noah Community and plan to stay there. The Brantley’s house boasts an impressive antique collection and several paintings of legendary horses like Allen F-1 and Brantley’s Roan Allen Jr. Also displayed throughout the house are many of Charles’ awards. Whether it’s a plaque, ribbon, certificate or trophy, each wall displays an honor or award bestowed to the Brantley family. Despite all of the awards, honors, and even being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame, Charles and Nellie remain humble about their achievements. A hard thing to do when you have so much to be proud of. When asked about what they do in their spare time for fun, both Charles and Nellie replied “ Go to horse shows.” A true sign of their love and undying interest in the walking horse.

Throughout the years the Tennessee Walking Horse phenomenon has continued to grow from state to state and even internationally. The walking horse business has experienced difficult times and managed to overcome them and keep on striding into history. Throughout these tough times and also the many good times; from the very beginning to the ever growing present, the Brantley family has been there. It was the Brantley’s that helped to give life to the walking horse breed as they still do today. The Brantley’s never lost interest or confidence in the walking horse. The Brantley’s never stopped promoting this great horse and have no intentions to do so. In his life alone, Charles Brantley has done more than make his mark in the history of the great Tennessee Walking Horse, he has made a legacy.

The popularity of the walking horse has increased tremendously in the last ten to twenty years. Even though Charles has been very successful and profited greatly from his long venture through the horse industry, the one thing that he is most grateful for is the friendships he has made along the way.

As Charles Brantley achieves this milestone in his career, he predicts many more milestones and a continued growth for the walking horse. " I think that the walking horse business will continue to improve in the future." predicts Brantley. "I have seen the popularity increase greatly in the last ten to twenty years and I think that it will continue and gain more international interest and participation." comments Brantley. " More owners are showing in the amateur classes and there has been an increase of interest in the pleasure horse classes, so I think that these areas will grow in the coming years."

There is no one in the walking horse industry today that can boast as many accomplishments and achievements as Charles Brantley could. Charles Brantley has shown the industry what it takes to be successful and gives this advice to those who are just beginning their venture, "Have a love for the horse, choose which area you want to work in, and be ready and willing to work real hard." Well spoken and well done Charles Brantley.

" Charles Brantley is a great humanitarian. He is a quite, unassuming man that you can call a gentleman and mean it. He has done as much for the walking horse industry as anyone I know. When Charles tells you something, you have no doubt that it is a fact."

Ron Thomas, CEO of the Celebration

" Charles Brantley and breeding operations such as his are the life blood of the walking horse industry. He and his family have bred the walking horse gait into the walking horse, and foals bred on his farm have dominated the breeding industry."

Bob Cherry, executive director of TWHBEA