There are plenty of iconic figures in the racing community, but not many of them made a bigger impact on the motorcycle industry than Tom White. Sadly though, the 68-year-old White passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer.
Raised in Huntington Beach, California, White grew up surfing in the ocean before he discovered another passion that brought him back to dry land. That infatuation was with riding motorcycles and he became so good at flat track racing that he rose to national number 80 in the professional ranks.
While he competed on flat tracks from 1971 to 1976, White expanded his interests into the business world when he opened Tom White’s Cycle Specialties in 1976. Initially founded as an aftermarket product company for motorcycles, the company grew exponentially over the next 25 years. White eventually brought his brother Dan in as a partner and they changed the company’s name to White Brothers Cycle Specialties, which became a $40 million-a-year-company before the brothers sold it in 2000.
Afterwards, White began assembling and refurbishing classic motorcycles. That large collection of bikes became the foundation of the Motorcross Museum, which White used to raise money for the High Hopes Head Injury Program. This was inspired by the distressing brain injury suffered by his son Brad. That injury is what inspired White to sell his successful business in the first place, so he could spend more time with his family.
“He was an example to all of us in so many ways – an example of what we all aspire to be,” said his daughter, Kristin Anderson, according to The Orange County Register. “He always told us to be passionate about whatever we did and work hard, and he was a living example of that.”
Despite his cancer diagnosis, White still lived each day to the fullest, calling motocross races on the weekends and taking his bikes out for rides on the track. In fact, White took one last ride at Perris Raceway in Riverside County three weeks ago, which is the same track where he picked up his first victory.
Even though White lost his battle with cancer on Nov. 2nd, his legacy will live on at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, as he was inducted in 2014.
“Tom White was one of the great people in motorcycling,” said Rob Dingman, president and CEO of the American Motorcyclist Association, according to roadracingworld.com. “In addition to his personal accomplishments on the track and in the business community, Tom was a wonderful person and a joy to be near.”
Video: Tom White’s AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction speech