James E. “Ted” Bassett III was born in Lexington, Kentucky. After graduating from Kent School and Yale University, he served as an infantry officer in the Fourth Marine Regiment, Sixth Division, during World War II. Twice wounded during the Okinawa campaign, Bassett recovered and participated in the initial landing by Allied Forces on Japanese shores. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Immediately following the war, Bassett was a newsprint salesman based in New York City. He subsequently returned to his home state, where he was a tobacco farmer for three years, and then was appointed as Kentucky’s Deputy Director of Public Safety. From 1963-1967, Bassett was Director of the Kentucky State Police. He served major roles in improving the public perception and appreciation of state troopers and increasing their pay and benefits, and was one of the founders of the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.
Bassett began working for the Keeneland Association in 1968, initially as the assistant to Louis Lee Haggin II. In 1969, Bassett became Keeneland’s president, and he served in the capacity until 1986, when he became chairman of the board. In 2003, Bassett became a Keeneland trustee, and he now holds the title of trustee emeritus. The entirety of his Keeneland tenure currently spans 42 years, and coincides with the association’s greatest period of growth.
From 1988-1996, Bassett also served as the president of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. He was chairman of the World Series Racing Championship from 1999-2004. Bassett remains a Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup director and a member of The Jockey Club. He is a past president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations of America, and formerly served as a trustee of the National Museum of Racing, University of Kentucky Equine Research Foundation and Transylvania University
Further, Bassett is an Honorary Member of the Victoria Racing Club of Australia, the Hong Kong Race Horse Owners Association and the Association of Jockey Clubs of Latin America. He is a recipient of the Eclipse Award of Merit, the Lord Derby Award, the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Award and Department of the Navy Superior Public Service Award. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Kentucky and Transylvania and Eastern Kentucky Universities.
Bassett lives with his wife of 58 years, Lucy, at Lanark Farm, which is her ancestral home in Woodford County, Kentucky.