The veterinarian who was the last person to treat legendary racehorse Man ‘o War has died at the age of 100.
Dr William R McGee, a former partner in the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute died on August 4 in Naples Florida.
McGee and Man ‘o War were both born in 1917 and year-long celebrations to commemorate the stallion’s birth are being held.
Born in Corvallis, Montana, McGee was a fine athlete and worked in his father’s livery stable and as a blacksmith in logging camps. He graduated from the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1939, and began his veterinary career in Kentucky.
McGee specialized in equine breeding management, and was at the forefront of various advances in that field. He is thought to be the first to perform surgery on a ruptured bladder in a foal, saving the young horse and paving the way for such surgery to become routine.
He is also believed to have performed the first cesarean section in a mare, along with Dr Gary Lavin, in 1963. While the foal did not survive, the mare went on to breed more foals.
McGee was the last veterinarian to care for Man o’ War, advising owner Samuel Riddle on the horse’s retirement from breeding and his end-of-life care. Man o’ War died peacefully in 1947, and McGee was one of nine speakers during the national radio broadcast of his funeral.
Of Man ‘o War’s death, McGee said in an interview for the Nunn Center: “I was out there doing something else one day, and the groom came in and said, ‘He’s down.’ And I went up and he wasn’t thrashing around, but he was breathing kind of intermittently, and I checked his heart and he was slumped down. I said, ‘Well, he’s – the time has come.’ But I didn’t euthanize him. It was, I guess, maybe a half hour after I got there that he just passed away.”
At the age of 98, McGee met Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at Churchill Downs. He said at the time that he had seen or treated six Triple Crown winners in their stallion careers.
Hagyard’s Dr Stuart Brown said McGee’s career “epitomized the essence of the consummate equine veterinary practitioner and professional colleague”.
“His dedication and compassion to the patients under his care are as legendary as the many renowned heroes of the Turf that experienced his skillful expertise. It is by no mistake that the practice’s renowned equine internal medicine service is housed in the facility that bears his name, the McGee Medicine Hospital. It serves as a daily reminder of his legacy to all of us in dedication to patient care and commitment to the lives of all those around us in service.”
McGee owned and lived on Winton Farm in Lexington. He was preceded in death four years ago by his wife Alice, and is survived by his two sons, William R. McGee Jr. and Michael McGee, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
William R. McGee, February 1, 1917 – August 4, 2017
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