Tom White (1949 – 2017)
Tom was raised near the ocean in Huntington Beach, California, where he grew up surfing before discovering his life-long passion: motorcycles. He soon found his niche in flat track racing, eventually earning national number 80 as a professional.
In 1976, White founded Tom White’s Cycle Specialties, which would later become White Brothers Cycle Specialties when White partnered with his twin brother, Dan. Over the next 25 years, White Brothers would grow into a nearly $40 million-a-year company that employed nearly 200 employees at its peak. White sold White Brothers in 2000, and turned his attention towards restoring and collecting vintage motocross bikes.
Over the next decade, White’s collection grew to over 170 motorcycles, including a variety of unique models from brands such as Husqvarna, CZ, Maico, Bultaco, BSA, and others. White believed his efforts were but one piece of a greater industry initiative to ensure the history and legacy of motorcycle racing in the United States remained intact and relevant for future generations of racers and fans.
White’s Early Years of Motocross Museum, located on his family’s private property in Orange County, California, is not open to the public, but it has played host to motorcycle industry events including product launches, professional racing media gatherings, as well as numerous charity fundraising efforts.
In addition to his role as a motorcycle historian, White discovered another passion over the past few decades: announcing motorcycle races. White became the announcer of the weekly REM motocross series at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, one of his greatest joys. In 2017, White was honored with a monument along Glen Helen’s Walk of Fame. White also served as the announcer for many professional races throughout the United States, reveling in the thrill of all disciplines of motorcycle racing.
In 2014, White was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame. And in 2018, White is due to receive the prestigious Dick Hammer lifetime achievement award from the Southern California Trailblazers Motorcycle Club.
“While we mourn the loss of an incredible human being, we also celebrate his life, his achievements, his passion for motorcycles, and his love of friends and family,” says the White family. “We hope that Tom’s life story serves as inspiration to everyone that fierce determination and good will can yield a life extraordinarily well lived.”
Tom White passed away peacefully in his home, surrounded by his family, along with several of his favorite motorcycles. He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, dear friends, and motorcycle enthusiasts around the world.
Memorials from Friends Around the Industry
Tom was surrounded by people who loved him. His family, his friends, his grand kids, his former employees and his loyal racing buddies will all miss Tom. But I don’t feel any sorrow for Tom White. I Ioved the guy and will continue to until the day I die. But, Tom White lived a full life, even if it was cut short. He got bang for his buck — he was a Grand National dirt tracker, successful businessman, World Vet Champion, museum owner, AMA Hall of Famer, husband, father, philanthropist and one heck of a guy. He has done it all in the sport.
I’m proud to call Tom White a friend. He was genuine, outgoing and totally involved. Even though he could have lived the life of a country squire, he was the busiest retired guy I’ve ever seen. When you called to see what he was doing, he’d reel off a list of board meetings he had to attend, flights to far off cities for business he was taking and races that he had volunteered to announce (almost always for free). But I’m mostly proud of Tom because in his dying days, when others would have taken to their beds, he raced his KTM 450SXF between chemo treatments, did four laps of an AMA Grand National dirt track on his new Indian 750FTR, held his granddaughter in his arms and bought a rare vintage bike for his museum (even though he would never get to enjoy it). I’m sad that my dear friend of 45 years is gone, but I’m glad that he got to go on his terms. I know that he wishes the same for all of us.
On September 11, I got a text message from my friend Tom White, letting me know that he was ceasing his chemotherapy treatments because they were worse than the cancer he was fighting. “The cancer is worse and that’s with the chemo. And the chemo is worse than the disease, and I am done with it as of this week. I’m going to try to ride Milestone tomorrow. I am looking forward to a few good days without poison. It would be really cool to see ya. Don’t try to stay with me on the track, though…what do I have to lose! Haha!”
Coincidentally, Pat Foster and I were already scheduled to test at Milestone on the 12th: myself on the 2018 KTM 250 SX, and Pat on Zach Osborne’s championship-winning factory Rockstar Energy Husqvarna FC 250. The day itself was hard to top. A large group of Tom’s closest riding friends showed up to do laps alongside him and watching them laugh and bench race in between rides was great. The highlight came at the end of the day when Husqvarna’s Andy Jefferson asked Tom if he’d like to take Zacho’s bike for a spin since we were done with our test ride. For a guy who owns nearly 200 motorcycles and among them some of the rarest and most collectible on earth, Tom was as excited as a kid on Christman Eve as he threw his leg over the number 16 Husky. Riding laps alongside him as he hooted, hollered, and laughed is something I will remember forever.
At the end of the day when our gear was off and our bikes were cooled off, I sat Tom down in front of my camera. “What are we doing?” he asked. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “Let’s just talk for a while.”
The following video contains that conversation in its entirety, unedited and unplanned. I miss you, Tom. And thank you for being my friend.
Steve Bauer (read in its entirety in CycleNews Vol. 54 Issue 45)
When Tom White passed last week, he left behind a void that may never be filled. Tom was the embodiment of all that is good about motorcycling. For nearly two decades, Tom has been our sport’s most eloquent ambassador, articulate spokesman, dedicated caregiver and enthusiastic fan. There are many talented people whose contributions collectively shape our little two-wheeled universe, but no one gives back to the sport the way that “Non-Stop Tom” did. The legacy he left behind will somewhat temper and mask the impact of his loss to the industry, but nothing can replace the man in the minds and hearts of those who knew him.
You are special to me, too, buddy and I’m forever grateful to you for showing all of us what a real man can be.
One of Tom White’s great strengths was that he always led with goodwill. He never lost the pure joy of motorcycling — inclusive of the people, culture, machines and history, about all of which he was incredibly knowledgeable.