Sunday, April 7, 2013

Atlanta's, Ed Wilcox - Episode #11

By: David L. Morrill
@ Deadly Dave's Blog

Updated - April 16, 2015



Atlanta's Ed Wilcox
1915
The idea for this story, like many, came to me while researching another story. I was scanning through a online copy of a 1917 issue of Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated, I ran across a report of the death of racer Ed Wilcox at the Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. I had not heard of Ed Wilcox, and decided to see what I could find.

Edward Lewis Wilcox was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1879, and grew up in Brooks, Iowa. In 1903, he married Emma Lawrence, and in 1908 they moved to Loveland, Colorado. Wilcox went to work for the Indian Motorcycle Company.

 In 1912, they moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he became the manager of Harry Glenn's Indian Motorcycle dealership. Glenn was an accomplished professional motorcycle racer, who regularly raced at the Atlanta Motordrome board track. Glenn also sponsored talented local riders, who raced Indian motorcycles.

Indian Motorcycles
Atlanta, GA.

Wilcox was becoming an accomplished amateur motorcycle racer on his Indian motorcycle.  Harry Glenn, mentored his employee Wilcox, in the racing game.  As an amateur racer, Wilcox did not compete in the races at the Atlanta Motordrome. Board track racing was a dangerous affair, and was left to contracted professional racers, like Glenn.

In May 1913, Wilcox entered the professional motorcycle class at the annual Hill Climb race held on Stewart Avenue outside Atlanta. The race featured regular production motorcycles, and was not open to special racing models.  Prior to the race, Harry Glenn made an exhibition run up the hill climb course in 48 seconds on the special Indian board track racer he used at the Motordrome.

Atlanta Constitution - August 25, 1913
Terry Griffith Collection
G. L. Singleton won the amateur event, and Ed Wilcox won the professional class, with a run of 57.4 seconds. Harry Glenn finished second to Wilcox.


Atlanta Constitution May - 1913

Later that year, Wilcox competed with some of the best riders in the country in the 1913  Savannah 300 American Classic Road Races. These grueling 5 hour races consisted of 27 laps of an 11.25 mile course made up of public roadways in Savannah, Georgia. The races attracted top factory riders representing most of the major motorcycle companies. Wilcox was not among the top finishers in the 1913 race, but apparently attracted attention with his ride.

In July 1914, Wilcox was a member of the Indian Factory Team that competed in the Southern Championship Endurance Race run between Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. At the end of the three day 860 mile event, Wilcox was one of six Indian riders that completed the race with a perfect score.



The pre-race report for the November 1914 Savannah 300 Road Race in Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review mentioned Wilcox among the returning crack competitors:


The Savannah Motorcycle Club determined the 32 entrants for the 1914 Thanksgiving Day race would be started in groups of five, with  their overall starting position determined by drawing lots. Wilcox drew the number two starting position, and started in the first group of five riders. At the end of the first lap, Wilcox on an Indian was second behind Savannah Harley-Davidson rider Zeddie Kelly. They were closely followed by Excelsior factory rider Joe Wolters.

1914 Savannah 300 American Classic

On the third lap Indian rider Gray Sloop left the course in a high speed turn, struck a tree, and was killed instantly. The accident took place in full view of a large crowd of spectators. An ambulance pulled onto the track slowing the riders and jumbling the lead positions. When the track was clear, Wilcox's Indian was unable to match the speed of the factory prepared racers, and he had faded from the lead pack. On the 19th lap, Savannah rider Zeddie Kelly, who was in second at the time, crashed heavily, and was transported to the local hospital. 

 Indian 8 Valve Racer
Barber Museum Collection

Mechanical problems forced Wilcox to retire from the race on lap 24. Indian rider Lee Taylor won the race, after leader Joe Wolters slowed with a flat tire, and finished second. Wilcox was scored in 17th place. The following day Zeddie Kelly, died of his injuries. Despite the fact the 1914 race drew the largest crowd ever for an American motorcycle race, the fatalities proved too much for the City Fathers, and this was the final American Classic motorcycle race.

Wilcox started off  the 1915 season in February, with a demonstration run on a sidecar equipped 1914 Indian up Georgia's Stone Mountain with Atlanta racer Harry Glenn.

Atlanta Constitution - February 28, 1915

On February 23,1915, The Atlanta Constitution reported the Wilcox won for races at the Augusta, Georgia Fairgrounds.


Atlanta Constitution - February 22, 1915



In April, 1915, Wilcox again competed in the Atlanta/Birmingham Endurance Run. He was among 22 riders, who finished the first day's run, with a perfect score. The overall race was won by W.E. DeGroat of Birmingham, Al. on a Harley-Davidson. No other results of that event are available.

Atlanta Constitution - April 5, 1915

On May 27, 1915, Wilcox set a new one mile track record, and won the 25 Mile Race held at the track in Fitzgerald, GA.

Atlanta Constitution - May 28, 1915

On February 22, 1916, Harry Glenn, and Ed Wilcox traveled to Augusta, GA. Glenn won the 3, 5, and 15 mile races, and Wilcox finished second in each of the three races. Wilcox did beat Glenn in the Australian Pursuit Race.

Atlanta Constitution - February 23, 1916
In November 1916, Ed Wilcox dominated the races held during the Mecklenburg, North Carolina Fair.


Motorcycle Illustrated - November 16, 1916



On July 4th, 1917, the new Lakewood Speedway opened south of Atlanta. The 1 mile dirt oval known as the Indy of the South,  hosted motorcycle races as part of their opening events.

Lakewood Speedway
A pre-race article in the Atlanta Constitution, mentioned that Ed Wilcox and M. Wise were being assisted by Harry Glenn


Gene Walker of Birmingham won both the 5, and 10 Mile races on a Harley-Davidson. Wilcox's Indian team mate Nemo Lancaster finished second, and Wilcox third in both races.

Ed Wilcox returned to Lakewood Speedway on September 3, 1917 for the Labor day races. Once again, he would compete with some of the best riders in the South, Including Gene Walker, and Tex Richards.

Atlanta Constitution - August 26, 1917



















Wilcox lined up, with six other riders, for the start of the five mile motorcycle race. As the race started, Wilcox was on the outside of the pack going into the first turn. Wilcox's Indian struck the wooden fence on the outside of the turn, and he sustained fatal injuries. This was the Speedway's first fatality. Wilcox's wife and young daughter were among  the large crowd  watching the race.


Atlanta Constitution - September 4, 1917

Adams County Free Press - September 5, 1917
It was originally thought Wilcox blew a tire, causing the accident. A later investigation revealed that both tires on Wilcox's Indian had air in them after the accident.

Atlanta Constitution - September 9, 1917

Wilcox's wife Emma, and her two children, accompanied Wilcox's body back to Iowa. 

Atlanta Constitution - September 6, 1917
Wilcox, who was 38 at the time of his death, was buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning, Iowa.

Edward L. Wilcox's Obituary
Adams County Free Press - September 8, 1917

Edward & Emma Wilcox Headstone
Walnut Grove Cemetery
Cindy Baldogo Collection


Author's Note:

In 1979 and 1981, Dale Singleton won the Daytona 200 motorcycle race for Yamaha. He was the grandson of G. L. Singleton, who won the 1913 Stewart Avenue Hill Climb in Atlanta for Pope. Dale was tragically killed in a private plane crash in 1985, while traveling to a NASCAR event. For more information on Dale's career, clink on AMA Hall of Fame link below:


Dale Singleton - American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame

Dale Singleton - AMA Hall of Fame


 Sources:

Adams County Free Press

American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame

Atlanta Constitution

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum Collection

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review

Cindy Baldogo Collection

Motorcycle Illustrated

Terry Griffith Collection

Wikipedia.org

6 comments:

  1. I am very astonished by the data of this blog and i am happy i had a look in excess of the blog. thank you so much for sharing such great data.
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    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Harry, I'm glad you liked it! It takes lots of hours to research these stories, and it's always good to get positive feedback. Keep checking in on the blog, as I try to post at least one new story a month. Have one coming out soon on the Atlanta Motordrome board track, and two other early Atlanta tracks that held motorcycle races.

    Deadly Dave

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  3. Hi Dave....I just now ran across your blog. This is wonderful stuff! I live in Atlanta and have done lots of research, and a little writing about very early bicycling in ATL & the rest of GA. We should get together and compare notes sometime!

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  4. I'm just starting research on my grandfather who owned an Indian Motorcycle dealership in Columbus, GA and raced his cycles in the 1930's. He actually passed away during a big race in Savannah in 1936. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

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    1. Alice, there is a January 2012 Motorcyclist magazine article on the 1936 Savannah 200 Mile motorcycle race, that briefly mentions your Grandfather J. B. Anderson. He was killed on January 19, 1936 on the second lap of the race, when he ran off the 3.3 dirt track, and struck a tree. There is a photograph of one tree lined corner of the race track, that shows how dangerous it was. Two motorcycle racers were killed under similar circumstances in the 1914 Savannah 300 Mile Road Race. There are no other mentions of him I can find, except a listing for a Georgia Death Certificate listing, but no document is available to view. If you have his full name & date & place of birth that may help me.

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    2. Alice, I believe your grandfather, W. "JB" Anderson was born in Lanett, AL on May 4 1908, and he is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Lanett. There is a memorial page for him on Find-A-Grave, but there's no info except hi birthday, and date of death.

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