Lowell Dorn’s career with Morris Communications began when he was hired as a computer programmer and technician. The man knew nothing about cutting horses, but little did he know, his employer, avid competitor and breeder William S. “Billy” Morris III, would change that quickly.
One day in 1983, Dorn’s head of department came to the computer programmers at the Augusta, Georgia, media company with a project to complete. Morris wanted a computerized scoring system for the city’s cutting horse show, The Augusta Futurity. This was in late October, and the event is held annually in mid-January. So, Dorn and his fellow employees put down all of their other work and began working on a computerized system that the judges could use to send scores to the announcers and office automatically.
“We had probably 12 different people to build all that and we built it from scratch. We didn’t buy anything off the shelf anywhere,” said Dorn. “It was all components and we built the computer, we built the displays with the numbers. We built the whole thing and that was in 1984, which was the first year we put the system in.”
The next January, the system was ready. New systems never work perfectly though, so Billy asked Dorn to attend the show and troubleshoot during the event.
“I had to work with the judges and train them on our systems. I had to do all of the directing of setting up the technology in the building, which was video, computer and scoring systems. I mean, it was a lot of things to hook up,” Dorn recalled.
The New Voice of The Augusta Futurity
The system duties placed him in the announcers stand with Zack Wood where Dorn began to learn in-depth about cutting horses. Wood, the longtime executive director of the National Cutting Horse Association, even pushed the microphone into Dorn’s hand on occasion when he wanted a break.
“Zack, he educated me and told me all I needed to know. He taught me a lot about cutting and a lot about life and about fairness. He was a great man and I miss him so much and so many others do,” Dorn said, emotion cracking his voice. “He was the godfather of cutting as far as I’m concerned.”
Dorn played and sang in a band, so he was already comfortable with a microphone in his hand. Eventually Wood passed the duties onto Dorn. He readily picked up announcing and was still able to keep an eye on the scoring system.
“I tried to get out of that responsibility one time and sent another guy in my place and it was just bad luck,” Dorn said. “The system just kept crashing left and right and Mr. Morris got the idea somehow that it was because I wasn’t there. So he came to me and said, ‘From now on, it’s your job to be here.’ and I said ‘Yes, sir.'”
40 Years Later
Dorn became known as the ‘Voice of The Augusta Futurity.’ It’s how most attendees know him, as an excited announcer, though he was also competition manager of the show at one point, and was heavily involved in the entire production for many years.
“I’ve known him from behind the scenes, and it is that work that nobody really sees that has impressed me so much throughout the years,” said Len Carter, the Augusta Futurity administration manager.
On Jan. 14, at the Augusta Futurity, Dorn was awarded his own cutting horse bronze for his 40 years of service to the show. During the cattle change of this year’s 5/6 Year-Old Open finals, Morris employees and Augusta Futurity board members gathered in the arena to share their congratulations with him.
“Lowell Dorn is a man of many talents. He is extremely competent in his work and generous in sharing his talents, in particular his voice,” Morris said. “He sings in a quartet both in religious and entertainment settings. He shared his voice for over 40 years as the official announcer of The Augusta Futurity. He not only did a great job as announcer, but became a friend to the riders, their family and the horses. What a great job he did. We thank him.”
Augusta Futurity Show Manager Sherry Fulmer declined to say too much during the presentation — not because she didn’t have anything to say, but for fear of becoming too emotional.
“As a final note, there is no one in the business that can deliver more eloquently the words, ‘leaving the working area before time has expired,’ and really make you feel good about it,” Carter said.