Jess Willard, who reigned as the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1915 to 1919, lived on Blanchard Drive in Glendale for many years.
Recently, Willard’s grandson, Jim Mace, of Carmichael, Calif., saw a photo of his grandfather’s house posted on the Glendale Historical Society’s website. The house was described as a “Jewel of Glendale.” After viewing the website, Mace sent an email to the society.
“That house on Blanchard used to be my grandparent’s home, from 1936 to about 1946,” his email said.
Mace sent along a photo of the Willard family in front of the house.
In subsequent emails, Mace told me more about his grandfather, who was born in 1881 and grew up on a small Kansas farm. As a young man, Willard trained horses. “He was too big to ride horses as a cowboy,” Mace wrote.
Willard married Hattie Evans in 1908 and, after the newlyweds moved to Texas, he traveled around trying to find work. One day, Willard wandered into a gym, thinking he could make some money in the boxing ring, Mace said.