I learned late last week that Wester Shadric Cooley, the father of the two-time AMA Superbike Champion Wester Steven Cooley (1979 & 1980), had passed away. The elder Wes Cooley was a force with the American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) in the early sixties.
He was elected Chgairman of the Board at the end of the 1959 racing season when the original chairman, Alan Thompkins, left for a job at Riverside Raceway.
At some point Cooley took over the duties of treasurer and secretary as well as chairman. He nearly single-handedly ran the Southern California portion of the AFM. Since the chairman also appointed the members of the board of directors, Cooley exerted a LOT of control over the activities of the club. In Southern California the AFM was Wes Cooley.
From the outside things looked good for the AFM but the internal organization wasn’t running very smoothly. The National Board was running the races in Southern California and the L.A. and San Diego Chapters seemed to have been merely social groups. With Cooley acting as Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer as well as organizing races, things weren’t always done on time if they got done at all. There were quite a few people in the club, even some members of the Cooley-appointed board, who want to change the way Cooley was running the club.
Cooley quit the club at the end of the 1964 season and AFM National promptly vanished. It was very nearly the end of the AFM, but there were some people who stepped in to fill the void left by Cooley’s abrupt departure, and the club survived. Cooley started a rival club, the American Cycle Association (ACA) that lasted until at least 1968. The ACA put on races at Willow Springs and Riverside, and perhaps other venues. I can’t find out much about the ACA on the web.
Wester Shadric Cooley eventually moved to central Oregon and became a rancher, it seems. He got involved in Republican politics, eventually being elected to the U.S. Congress as representative of Oregon’s conservative 2nd district. Things didn’t go very well for him there, but that’s another story. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wes_Cooley if you’re interested.
So another old racer passes on at age 82. I don’t know if Wes Cooley was good for the AFM or not, but it’s clear he exerted a tremendous influence on the AFM during a time of change, and fathered a two-time AMA Superbike Champion. He has earned his place in motorcycle road racing history. Godspeed Mr. Cooley.