True 1%er Grit
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 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 special something about a particular man that will cause other men to follow him into the gates of Hell? What is it that makes a man so charismatic that other men will, without a question, protect him and keep him safe even at their own demise?
A true leader has 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.
The worldwide motorcycle community lost a true leader. Leonard Loyd Reed, known as “JR” to most, “Junior” to his close friends and brothers, was taken form this world in June 20, 2003 in Denver, Colorado. JR was born on September 12, 1947. He was a veteran of the United States Navy, serving during the Vietnam War era from 1965 through 1969. Following his service to his country JR embarked on his life’s work.
In 1974 a biker named Boston Bill (Vice President of the Colorado Springs chapter and JR’s sponsor) ran a chrome plating shop in Colorado Springs. He employed a young man named JR Reed as a buffer. Boston Bill began bringing JR around his motorcycle club, the Sons of Silence MC. Then Club President Rowdy Ralph told me, “As soon as I met JR, 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 beet 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, JR took the position as National President of the Club. For the next 22+ years, JR remained in place as the undisputed leader of the Sons of Silence MC, but his leadership and vision went much farther than just his Club.”
Rowdy Ralph related a story to me that I believe 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 of hundred motorcyclists in the town of Sturgis, nothing like the huge rally that riders 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 three hundred or so members took up position on one side of the street, another three hundred or 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 some members on both sides might have been 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 street unaware of the building tension. Like a scene from the movie “Tombstone” at the “OK Corral”, the rivals watched and waited for the inevitable. There was no question that is was going to happen, only when.
Without informing anyone, JR made his way to the encampment of one of the clubs. He went alone, with no back-up. JR felt that showing up alone was his best chance to make headway. Later 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 anyway, otherwise his worst nightmare was going to become reality.
To this day no one is sure what was said, or how the message was delivered, but before one fist was thrown, before one shot was fired, the word came trickling down the line 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.
JR’s bits of wisdom usually came straight from the hip. He said what he meant what he said. You never had to try to figure out where he was coming from. JR was what he was. What you saw is what you got. He despised fakes. He once told me, “Be what you are, decide what you want to be and be that. If you want to 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 to make people think you like skinny girls. Just be what you are.”
JR Reed was instrumental in the formation and perpetuations of the “Coalition of Club”. Originally started to provide legal representation for members of the motorcycle clubs, JR took the Coalition down a slightly different path. JR believed that the most important function of the Coalition should serve is to promote communication between the clubs. He believed that if various motorcycling 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 the clubs.
The news of JR’s death is still hard to believe. Even after JR handed over the National President’s position to his successor, I couldn’t help but call him “Boss”. Meaning no disrespect to the current President, “Boss” was the only thing that I had ever called JR.
Things just won’t be the same around here without you.