On September 1st, 1919, a 200-mile motorcycle race was held in Marion, Indiana. Among a group of racers representing the Indian Motorcycles was Gene Walker, a man who lived and died for racing.
Races Ridden by Gene Walker
Born on June 7, 1893, Gene Walker grew up in Birmingham, AL. He remained relatively off the radar until the age of 17 when he received his first Indian Excelsior motorcycle. Walker used his Excelsior to deliver mail in Birmingham, a job that very sooner led to a love for racing.
At the age of 19, Walker entered his first race. He rode a 5-mile track in his hometown of Birmingham and won, intriguing Indian motorcycle dealer Bob Stubbs, who happened to be present. In 1912, Walker quit his day job and became a full-time rider and representative of Indian motorcycles with Bob Stubbs sponsoring his races.
Walker’s first professional race was with the Federation of American Motorcyclists in the fall of 1913, where he set a new lap record.
A Time of Change
During World War I, Indian motorcycle manufacturers focused less on racing and more on producing motorcycles for the United States military. Walker did not enlist, as his mother relied on him as her sole monetary support. At this point in time, Walker switched companies and began making motorcycle repairs for Harley-Davidson until 1919, when Indian took him back on as a racer and advertiser.
Walker was a skilled motorcyclist, winning a total of 19 national championships in 10 years of racing. In 1920, he set a speed record of 115 miles per hour on a beach in Florida. He briefly left the Indian company and raced more personally, but in 1924, he signed on with them once again.
Finishing the Race
On his 31st birthday (June 7, 1924), Gene Walker was racing alone on a Pennsylvania track. A woman suddenly crossed the track where he was practicing, and he swerved to avoid hitting her. Tragically, he crashed his motorcycle and went straight to the hospital, where he died 14 days later. He left behind a widow and two children.
Notable Achievements of Gene Walker
Gene Walker was one of the first famous motorcyclists to come from the southern part of the country. He set several national and world records, including speed and track records. In 1919 alone, he won almost half of the national championships he raced in (6 out of 13) and set 3 track records. In 1998, he was officially welcomed into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, a testament to the impact he made on the early development of the motorcycle industry.
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