Sunday, February 3, 2013

Orlando's Tommy Seagraves - Episode #9

By: David L. Morrill
@ Mototique

Updated: December 26, 2016

#95 Tommy Seagraves
Eddie Boomhower Collection
This story came by way of an earlier story I wrote on Tommy’s teammate Dexter Campbell. Dexter’s wife, Lucille Campbell Gatewood, mentioned that one of Dexter's Puckett Harley-Davidson teammates, Tommy Seagraves, had been killed in a racing accident at Watkins Glen, New York in the early sixties. I had not heard of Tommy during my thirty years in Orlando, so I contacted Denny Haven. It turns out Tommy rode with Denny to races, and was at the 1960 Watkins Glen Road Race. He shared his memories for this story.
In the late 50s, Dick O’Brien was the Racing Manger for Puckett’s Harley-Davidson in Orlando, Florida. Puckett’s had developed a reputation for tuning and racing the Harley 165. As Dick looked around for riders, he chose his younger brother Jesse O’Brien, Dexter Campbell, and Tommy Seagraves. All three riders were from the Orlando area, and they began to dominate scrambles racing throughout Florida.
In 1957, Dick O'Brien left Pucketts to work for Harley-Davidson Factory Racing Team Manager Hank Syvertsen.  When Syvertsen retired later that year, O'Brien took his place as the factory Racing Team Manager . Tommy Seagraves had moved from scrambles into flat track and road racing. He was traveling to races with BSA rider Denny Haven. O'Brien arranged for Seagraves to race factory prepared Harley-Davidsons.

In 1960, Tommy Seagraves was one of the top amateur racers in the country. In March, he rewarded Dick’s confidence in him, by winning the 100 Mile Amateur Road Race at Daytona Beach, Florida.
American Motorcycling - April 1960

Riding a Harley-Davidson KRTT, Tommy set a new record speed on the course which used both the beach and a stretch of Highway A1A.  Later that year, Tommy won the dirt track National Race on the half mile llliana Motor Speedway in Schereville, Indiana.

American Motorcycling - August 1960

In August of 1960, Denny Haven and Tommy Seagraves headed to Watkins Glen, New York for the National Road Race. On August 14, 1960, Tommy was killed in a practice accident at the Watkins Glen road course. 

Syracuse, NY. Post Standard - August 14, 1960

The event is described Deny Haven:
We raced our way up and down the east coast. Months later we were on our way to The Harley-Davidson shop in Hartford Conn, to pick up Tommy`s Factory Harley. That road racer turned out to be the bike that Brad Andres won Marlboro on, and it still had Brad's # 4 on the plates. We had to find a sign shop and get the white plates painted yellow, and add Tommy`s number 95.

Harley-Davidson KRTT
Wheels Through Time Collection

Wheels Through Time Museum Home Page

We made it to the Watkins Glenn National Road Race, me on my BSA road racer, and Tommy on his Harley road racer.
In practice going into the S turn down the hill section, Bud Kohler on a Triumph and Tommy were side by side.  The Harley-Davidson, on the left, was leading.  I was on my BSA about 2 bike lengths behind them. Tommy was leaning way over, and lost both ends of his Harley at around a hundred miles per hour. He went head first into a big mound of dirt piled up along the outside of the race track.

I went to our pits and Roger Reiman ran over to me and stopped me from going to the crash. He told me Tommy was killed instantly. I was in shock.

Tommy Seagraves was 20 years old at the time of his death. He was buried in Orlando, Florida. In remembering his friend, Denny Haven further stated:

Tommy died doing what he liked best.  We that knew Tommy Seagraves, miss him, and know he would have been a great racer, had he lived.
Thomas Allen Seagraves was buried in the Drawdy Rouse Cemetery in Orange County, Florida. He headstone features an engraving of a photo of his win in the 100 Mile Daytona Beach Amateur Race.

Howard Curran Collection


American Motorcycling
Eddie Boomhower Collection

Howard Curran Collection

Syracuse, NY. Post Standard
Wheels Through Time Museum

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