June 7, 1893
Birmingham native John Eugene Walker began riding a motorcycle in 1910 to deliver the mail. In 1912, he won a race at the old Birmingham International Raceway. That caught the eye of the local Indian Motorcycle dealer, who began sponsoring Walker in local and regional competitions. Walker soon became a factory-sponsored Indian racer, moving to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the company was based. He returned to Birmingham during World War I to work as a motorcycle repairman for a local Harley-Davidson dealership, as Indian’s focus turned to producing motorcycles for the military. By 1919, Walker was back in racing, and in 1920 set a land-speed record of 115 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida. Indian began featuring Walker in its advertising but dumped him after he refused to race in dusty conditions at the 1921 Dodge City 300. Walker started racing on his own Harley-Davidson. Indian persuaded him to rejoin the team for the 1924 season, during which he won a championship on the board track in Los Angeles. But on June 7, 1924, his 31st birthday, Walker crashed during a practice run in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He died two weeks later, leaving a wife and two children. In all, Walker amassed 19 championships and broke multiple world records. He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998. He is buried in Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery.
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