Skip to content

Freeman to Star in Beautiful Jim Key Movie



Dr. William Key (Bill), a self-taught veterinarian and former slave, along with his “best friend” Jim Key, a horse, are well- respected within the equine community, history buffs and children’s library’s alike.

From 1897-1906, over nine years of continuous performances, Doc Key and Jim captivated the nation by demonstrating the “power of kindness” employed by Bill Key in cultivating Jim’s inexplicable abilities to read, write, spell, do math, tell time, sort mail, use a cash register and a telephone, cite Bible passages, and engage in political debate.


As Jim continued his studies, the Doc taught him to tell time, know the days of the week, and recognize flags of different countries.

Even as a child, Bill was recognized for having extraordinary horse whispering and animal healing skills – using only kindness and no force. Educated by his master, tanner John W. Key, and his master's sons in Shelbyville, Tenn., Bill later chose to protect the boys during the Civil War, serving the Rebels in the battles of Fort Donelson, Stones River and Shiloh, while also serving the Yankees and fellow slaves along the Underground Railroad. Sentenced to hang as a double-agent, he escaped thanks to his poker-playing genius. After the war, he went back to Shelbyville, paid off the mortgage on his dead master's fallen property, and supported his master's heirs for the rest of their days.

Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman recently signed on to portray Dr. Jim Key in the upcoming movie, Beautiful Jim Key. Production is set to kick-off in early 2015.


Not long after their retirement in 1906, Monk, Jim and the Doc retired to their home in Shelbyville, where all three are buried today.

Click Here for additional information about the history of this pair.

More Stories

  • 42nd WHOA International to Commence August 10-17, 2020

    The Walking Horse Owners' is pleased to announce the 42nd Annual International Pleasure & Colt Championship will proceed on schedule on August 11-17, 2020 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee... Read More
  • **Updated Horse Show Schedule

    The Walking Horse Report will provide daily updates to the list of canceled and postponed horse shows... Read More
  • Latest Issue 8 3 20

    Read More
  • Online entries open for 82nd Annual Celebration

    The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has opened its online entries for the upcoming 82nd Annual Celebration.  The entries can be made by logging in at www.gaitkeeper.com. It is the same system that was used for the Celebration’s Spring Fun Show... Read More
  • Celebration updates class schedule for 82nd Annual Celebration

    Entries for the 82nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration are due by 5:00PM CST on Tuesday August 4th. With that deadline in mind, The Celebration has announced changes to its schedule of classes on July 22nd... Read More
  • Alabama Ladies Auxiliary revises class schedule

    The Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Horse Show, scheduled for August 8, has revised their class schedule. The Amateur Two-Year-Old will be split... Read More
  • Celebration provides clarifications on prize monies

    The 82nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will be held August 26 – September 5.  The entry deadline is Tuesday August 4th at 5:00PM CST. The Celebration would like to provide those making entries with clarifications on how winnings will be distributed and exceptions to the policy of showing back to receive prize monies for those horses finishing 1st through 5th in the qualifying classes. Read More
  • Wartrace entry office information

    The Wartrace Horse Show, scheduled for Saturday, August 1, will be taking entries at the show until 8:00 pm. Show management would appreciate it if trainers could bring entry forms already filled out to reduce time in the entry area and limit exposure to our entry office clerks... Read More
  • Obituary – J. Fred Johnston

    J. Fred Johnston, age 86, passed away on Sunday, July 26, 2020. He was born September 23, 1933 in Loretto, TN. A native of Lawrence County, he retired from Murray Ohio after 32 years. He served others throughout his life, as a Life Member of Tennessee Walking Horse Association... Read More
  • Latest Issue 7 27 20

    Read More