The motorcycling world lost a leading light and a great man when legendary racer, businessman, AMA Hall of Famer and philanthropist Tom White succumbed to cancer at his Villa Park, Calif., home on November 2, 2017. He was 68.
Most motorcyclists know something about Tom White. That he grew up in Southern California, surfing and riding motorcycles. Or that he quickly became one of the nation’s top dirt track racers, pounding around the miles, half miles, short tracks and TTs in the 1970s, his race bike carrying national number 80.
Most surely know he built and ran White Brothers, a leading aftermarket supplier and distributor, with his bother Dan for the better part of 25 years. Or that he sold the company to take care of his son Bradley, who suffered severe brain injuries due to a freak accident while riding a minibike, and needing around-the-clock care.
Many also know that Tom White amassed a serious collection of pristine, legendary dirt bikes and race bikes, some 170 in all, most housed in a custom, two-story, 5500 square-foot structure at his expansive So Cal home. But White’s collection was much, much more than a barn full of two-wheeled baubles for a well-off ex-racer – and its existence, and what he did with his collection, tells us a lot about the man himself.
“The collection, and the museum in general,” White said a few years ago, “is to honor the man primarily responsible for bringing motocross to America – Edison Dye. He certainly didn’t get enough credit.” In 1999, White discovered where Dye was living, convinced him to come to White’s Vet World Championship event at Glen Helen, and presented him with his organization’s Lifetime Achievement award.
Dye, who’d been living a lonely existence completely out of motorcycling, was stunned. Over the years the two developed a strong relationship despite Dye’s failing health. White would pick Dye up at the rest home he lived in, take him to lunch or some event, and return him later in the day. “Edison had some small strokes in those later years and he was pretty frail,” White said. “But we had fun.”
White’s museum did more than simply honor Edison Dye. Through a series of Bikes and Burgers get-togethers for industry and the general public, White began raising money for Orange County’s High Hopes Head Injury Program, an organization White credited with giving his son back to him and his family. In 2015 alone, the events sent $170,000 to High Hopes.
For sure, Tom White was a committed motorcyclist, a great racer, a superb businessman, a gracious host and a generous philanthropist. But we’ll remember him best as a wonderful and caring human being – and a great friend of our sport.
Godspeed, Tom. You will be missed.