Memphis, TN

The Memphis sports legend that is giving away $80 million

Ash Jurberg
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We all like to read good news.

And so recently, I have been writing a series of articles looking at leaders and entrepreneurs who are doing good things in their local community.

Today I want to spotlight a Memphis sports legend who made a record-breaking donation last year. Thanks to her donation, Melanie Smith Taylor was recognized as the 33rd most charitable person in the United States in 2021.

Let's take a quick look at her story.

The Memphis sports legend

Melanie Smith was born on her parents' farm in the Memphis suburb of Germantown in 1949.

By the time she was two years old, she was riding horses and was involved in competitions from an early age. Her skills in horse riding led to a long and successful equestrian career.

In 1978, Melanie was the first American Grandprix Association Rider of the Year; she won the World Cup in 1982 and was on the first American equestrian team to win an Olympic gold medal in team jumping in 1984. After she retired, she became a commentator, and in 1998 she was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1985 she married Lee Taylor, and the two of them lived on Wildwood Farm, a 350-acre farm off of Germantown Rd. in Germantown, where they raised and trained thoroughbred horses.

The $80 million donation

Last year, Taylor announced that Wildwood Farm would become the property of the University of Tennessee upon her death. The property is valued at nearly $80 million, making it the largest gift ever made to UT.

This transformational commitment will support our academic and research mission for generations to come. The extraordinary generosity of Melanie Taylor and the Taylor family will allow UT Martin programs to expand into Shelby County and will greatly enhance our ability to promote agriculture, horsemanship, and plant and soil science. We are extremely grateful.” UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver

Wildwood Farm will become a "living classroom” for students in veterinary health technology and agricultural studies. In addition, high school students at nearby Collierville and Germantown High will also be able to participate in programs at the farm.

The decision was really laid out by Lee, my late husband. Lee had such an interest in science and education and the land and animals and to think that this could continue to be a place for people to enjoy and to learn and for future generations to be part of this place.” Melanie Smith Taylor

Readers, what do you think of the donation? What other Memphis organizations would you like to see be supported by large donations?

Please leave your comments below.

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