"J.R. Might’ve Been Small In Stature,
But He Was A Giant Among Men."
Tribute to J.R. by J.F. Wear
What makes a man a leader amongst men? Education? Sometimes. Men can be taught to lead. Physical strength? Often. Intimidation can be used to force others to follow but that is usually short lived. Money? Many will follow a wealthy man, but money is only paper, once it’s gone the wealthy man is a leader no more. So what is a leader made of? What is that something special about a particular man that will cause another man to follow him into the gates of hell? What is it that makes a man so charismatic that other men will follow without question, protect him and keep him safe, even at their own demise. A true leader has a strength that comes from within which cannot be put into words. True leaders are few and far between. When a true leader is lost, it is a loss that is felt throughout the community. Like a rock being dropped into the center of a still pond. The ripples touch every inch of the surrounding shore. The muck on the bottom is stirred up and the pond will not be still again for some time to come.
In June 2003 the worldwide motorcycle community lost a true leader. Leonard Lloyd Reed known as J.R. to most and Junior to his close friends and brothers was taken from this world on June 20th, 2003 in Denver Colorado. J.R. was born on September 12, 1947, he was a veteran of the United States Navy, serving during the Vietnam war era, from 1965-1969. Following his service to his country, J.R. embarked on his life’s work. In 1974 a biker named Boston Bill, Vice President of the Colorado Springs chapter and J.R.'s sponsor, ran a chrome plating shop in Colorado Springs. He employed a young man named J.R. Reed as a buffer. Boston Bill began bringing J.R. around his motorcycle club the Sons of Silence MC. The club President, Rowdy Ralph, told me “as soon as I met J.R. I knew there was something about him. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I just knew. I could see his potential and I knew that he would be a great man one day.” Ralph added, “as soon as he showed interest, we brought him into the club. We patched him out in the summer of 1975 and it wasn’t long after that I had to beat feet out of town. Normal procedure would have been to elect a new President in my absence. This time though I gathered all the boys together and said, here’s your new President".
After a few years as Colorado Springs president, J.R. took the position as National President of the club. For the next 22 plus years, J.R. remained in place as the undisputed leader of the Sons of Silence MC. His leadership and vision went much farther than his club. Rowdy Ralph relayed a story to me that I think illustrates the true grit that made the man who he was. Back in the late 70’s the Sturgis rally was nothing more than a couple hundred motorcyclist in the town of Sturgis SD. Nothing like the huge rally that people see today. In those days the town of Deadwood is where the real bikers hung out. Toward the end of the week, long party, two rival motorcycle clubs were facing off in downtown Deadwood. While 300 or so members took up position on one side of the street. Another 300 is so rival members took up their position on the opposite side of the street. Just 60 feet apart at the time. It was suggested, that members on both sides might be armed in anticipation of the pending conflict. Law enforcement was nearly non existent. There was less than a dozen cops in the town of Deadwood and they were nowhere to be seen. Civilians on bikes and in cars filled the streets unaware of the mounting tension. Like the scene from the movie Tombstone at the OK Corral, the rivals watched and waited for the inevitable. There was no question that it was going to happen, only when. Without informing anyone, J.R. made his way to the encampment of the rival club. He went alone with no backup. J.R. felt that showing up alone was in his best interest to make some headway. Late that evening he told Rowdy that when he went in, he was sure he was not going to come out, but he knew he had to do it anyways, otherwise his worst nightmare was going to become reality. To this day no one is sure what he said or how the message was delivered but before one fist was thrown, before one shot was fired, the word came trickling down the lines on both sides of the street, that everyone was to pull up and go back to camp. The next day, the two sides headed home.
J.R.’s bit of wisdom usually came straight from the hip. He said what he meant, and he meant what he said. You never had to try and figure out where he was coming from. J.R. was what he said he was, what you saw, is what you got. He despised posers and fakes. He once told me, “be what you are, decide what you wanna be and be that. If you wanna be a cop, be a cop, but don’t be a cop who wants to be a biker. If you like fat girls, go out with fat girls. But don’t bring skinny girls around and make people think you like skinny girls. Just be what you are.”
J.R. Reed was instrumental in the formation of the coalition of clubs. Originally started to provide legal representation for members of motorcycle clubs. J.R. took the coalition down a slightly different path. J.R. believed that most important function the coalition could serve is to promote communication between the clubs. He believed that if various motorcycle organizations could communicate directly, that many hard feelings and conflicts could be avoided. Like others, Reed believed, that many of the conflicts that happened between motorcycle clubs are instigated by people from outside the club itself. In particular, some law enforcement agencies gain ground by creating conflict amongst clubs.
The news of J.R.’s death is still hard to believe. Even after J.R. handed over the national Presidents position to a successor, I couldn’t help but call him boss. Meaning no disrespect to the current President. Boss was the only thing I ever called J.R. "things just won’t be the same around here without you".