He had ‘a calling’ for racehorses and for family

This story is part of an ongoing Miami Herald series chronicling the lives of South Florida COVID-19 victims.

Mr. Bellevue, Seaneana, Captain Hooched and Round Eight were among Joseph Lawrence Hawkins’s most famed racehorses from the 1960s to the 1990s. The thoroughbred trainer and owner worked at most of the tracks in the United States, including Hialeah Park, Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park.

Hawkins, who died April 14 from COVID-19 at age 87, chose a career rare for men of color, serving as an example for others, his family said.

Hawkins was born in Bowie, Maryland, on Oct. 9, 1932, the last of 13 children. He was raised on the family farm, where they grew their own fruits and vegetables among horses, pigs, cows and chickens.

His parents, Guy and Margaret, were both chefs. His father worked at a hotel and his mother at the local racetrack, which inspired Hawkins’ passion.

He had to leave school in eighth grade because he and his siblings had to take care of the farm and each other. But, as he grew older, he went on to pursue his true calling. He began as a trainer of horses owned by others, then purchased and trained his own.

He raised five daughters — Linda, Jacqueline, Margaret, Maria and Delores — in Pennsauken, N.J., where they learned to ride and care for horses. His children spent many weekends back in Bowie with their grandparents on the farm.

“Some girls don’t get a chance to learn or share things with their dad because they have their mother, but we didn’t have our mother; we had our dad,” said daughter Margaret Moss, who said the family didn’t have much interaction with her after a divorce.

At age 70, he retired, sold all of his horses and moved to Key Largo to be closer to his daughters. He attended Key Largo Christian Center.

“He really loved us and took care of us,” Moss said. “The kind of work my dad did, he was always gone, racing his horses. So for him to raise five girls, that was the ultimate thing I am grateful for.”

Bianca Marcof, a Florida International University journalism student, wrote this story for the Miami Herald.