Icons of the Sport: William Kendrick

Learn about the contributions of dog breeder, author and judge William Kendrick.

William Kendrick

Breeder, author and judge William Kendrick devoted his life to the sport of purebred dogs. “All his life he was a BT man,” says the Hon. David Merriam, former president of the Bull Terrier Club of America, who was 15 when he first met Kendrick in 1953 at the Los Angeles Kennel Club. “He gave me  Best of Breed with my very young first Bull Terrier. He was a significant contributor to the BTCA and Philadelphia clubs as well as an accomplished writer on the breed, and, we all knew him as a respected all-rounder and a delightful person to be with. He was affectionately known as ‘Billy,’ but respectfully known as William.”

Born in 1904, he grew up in Ardmore, Pa., one of Philadelphia’s elite Mainline suburbs. “To my knowledge Kendrick was never distracted by the mundane necessity of ‘earning’ a living,” Merriam says. “We always thought of him as a ‘coupon-clipper’ relying on the proceeds of bonds.” Boston and Philadelphia were America’s BT strongholds during these years. William’s uncle, Freeland Kendrick, bred under the Queensbury prefix, served as BTCA vice president, and judged the club’s first 1908 specialty. As mayor of Philadelphia in 1926, Freeland ran the dog show held with Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Exposition. By then, William was president of the Bull Terrier Club of Philadelphia, which held its inaugural specialty in conjunction with the show.

“Not much of their line survived into the ’40s and ’50s, but Queensbury under Mayor Kendrick and William had reasonable success in breeding and exhibiting,” Merriam says. William also bred Manchesters, introduced Boxers to the Philadelphia area and began amassing the extraordinary breed knowledge that became a hallmark of his writing and judging. William was first approved to judge in 1924 while a 20-year-old junior at Princeton. At 14, he reported on the first AKC BIS for a BT at Westminster in 1918: “Whilst we bullterrier people had a deep conviction of the greatness of Faultless and an abiding faith in his merit, we never dreamed that he was destined to such heights.” (BTCA Centennial History 1897-1997)

A longtime writer for the periodical Popular Dogs, William was truly on his game when presenting topics close to his heart. “Three big issues raged on the BT scene in the ’20s and ’30s,” Merriam explains. William’s writing offered an insider’s view of the contention surrounding AKC’s proposed cropping ban and the ascendency of the English type of Bull Terrier. “Kendrick was raised on the American-type BT,” Merriam says. “His disdain of the English type perhaps led him to an exaggerated concern for gay tails. He hated them. In his last years I recall receiving a call at about 4 a.m. Pacific time — he was oblivious to time zones — saying, ‘Dave, what are we going to do about these BT tails?'”
The introduction of the Colored BT inspired William’s forceful argument for tradition. “However, the great body of sincere fanciers in America have charted a course by the star of the spotless white jackets of their cavaliers; the good old white ‘uns. They are not unmindful of the trials, tribulations and disappointments incurred in the past to establish that inspiring white jacket which now comes true from generation to generation: they will countenance nothing that might endanger this priceless heritage.” (“Is Bullterrier Type in America Changing?”; 1935.)
He is best remembered as an incisive judge. Highly respected and constantly in demand, William and his wife, Vernelle, earned fans in every group. William eventually became AKC’s longest-serving all-breed judge. Arguably, his most famous assignment was BIS at the 1984 AKC Centennial Show. He was a member of Montgomery, and president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia for 30 years, retiring in 1990. He died in 1992.


From the September 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the September 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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