Ed Youngblood was president of the American Motorcyclist Association from 1981 to 1999. Under Youngblood's direction, the AMA enjoyed a long period of growth and stability. Communication to its membership and government relations activities greatly increased during his tenure.
Youngblood was also a driving force behind the AMA's growing involvement with the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM), the world governing body for motorcycling. Working within the FIM meant that the AMA had greater influence on worldwide issues pertaining to motorcycling. Other major developments that took place under Youngblood's guidance were the establishment of a Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the moving of the AMA headquarters to a site in Pickerington, Ohio, that will accommodate future growth of the association for years to come.
Youngblood was born on September 28, 1943, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. His father worked for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad and his mother worked in the local school board administration. Youngblood attended college at Oklahoma State University. There he met his wife Margaret and the newlyweds moved to Athens, Ohio, so Youngblood could attend graduate school at Ohio University.
One of Youngblood's earliest memories as a small child was seeing a rider frequently go by his house riding into town on a green Indian Chief. "I would stand there and watch that motorcycle go by until I couldn't see it anymore and then I'd continue to stand and listen until I couldn't hear it anymore. I was just fixated on that motorcycle," Youngblood recalls. He bought his first bike, a 165cc Harley-Davidson, when he was 14.
While attending college in Ohio, Youngblood picked up a used BMW 250cc single to commute to school and financed it for $12 a month. As a cash-poor college student, he justified buying the BMW after he figured he was saving at least $12 a month in gasoline expense versus driving a car back and forth to school.
Youngblood began attending dirt track races with a local rider and helping as his mechanic. To make a little extra pocket money on these trips, he submitted race reports and photos to Cycle News (a weekly motorcycling newspaper). After graduating from school with a masters degree, Youngblood was trying to figure out what kind of career he wanted to pursue when Cycle News publishers Chuck and Sharon Clayton called and offered him a position as editor for its eastern edition. So Youngblood's first full-time job in motorcycling was as editor of Cycle News East.
Motorcycling was in the midst of a huge boom during Youngblood's years at Cycle News. Youngblood recalls his time at Cycle News as fun and exciting. "It was an interesting era of motorcycling when we started becoming much more involved politically due to helmet laws and land-closure issues," Youngblood remembers. While at Cycle News, Youngblood helped launched the first state-level political organization for bikers rights started in Ohio.
Youngblood joined the AMA in September of 1970 as managing editor of American Motorcyclist Magazine (which was then called AMA News). Youngblood saw joining the AMA as a wonderful opportunity to contribute to motorcycling from the inside. Shortly after his arrival, the AMA began sending American Motorcyclist to all members (in prior years it was sent only to subscribing members and had a circulation of only around 12,000). The publication immediately became an excellent communications vehicle for the association.
Within a few years, Youngblood was called on to become the interim general manager of the Association after AMA Director Russ March resigned under fire from the board late in 1973. The transition period dragged on for four years. During that time, Youngblood acted as the association's director as well as performing his normal editorial duties with the magazine.
In 1978, Lin Kuchler (who was a past director of the AMA before becoming competition director for NASCAR) returned to his previous post with the AMA. Youngblood was given charge of the AMA's government relations department and, in recognition of his excellent performance in overall management of the association, was designated chief deputy of the AMA.
In January of 1981, Youngblood was appointed Executive Director of the AMA, a position later designated as President.
Early in his administration, one of Youngblood's most significant political maneuvers was to get the AMA more involved with the FIM. Youngblood actively pursued getting AMA staff members elected to important FIM committees. He realized that it was important for the FIM and its national federations to follow the AMA's example and establish strong government relations entities. Modeled after the AMA, many motorcycling federations around the world began forming their own government relations departments.
Youngblood invited members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America to AMA board meetings in the early 1980s to talk about the growing interest in the history of motorcycling. These meetings led to the formation of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation. The foundation was set up to procure funds for a motorcycling museum. After ten years of planning, the American Motorcycle Heritage Museum was opened in 1990 next to the AMA's headquarters in Westerville, Ohio. The museum served as a showcase of the great history of motorcycling and attracted thousands of visitors each year.
Youndblood explained his feelings on the importance of remembering and appreciating motorcycling's heritage:
"I do not see history as just a thing in the past that happened some time ago," he said. "I see history as an understanding of who we are and how we got where we are. When any culture, nation or industry faces a crisis, those that have the will to survive are the ones that have a deep understanding and appreciation of who they are and where they came from. That's what gives us an understanding of our own value and gives us a will to fight for what we are and what we believe in."
Youngblood served 25 years as a delegate to the FIM, where he rose to the position of deputy president, the organization's second-highest post. He also served as a trustee of the Clayton Foundation, which gives financial aid to seriously injured motorcycle racers, and the Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
Early in 1999, Youngblood resigned from the AMA to focus specifically on his interests in history and writing. Since his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1999, he has completed four books on motorcycle history and served as an exhibit consultant for the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the Ohio State University, and the Guggenheim Museum. Under his leadership the AMA grew in size and strength and achieved a number of major milestones that will leave an important legacy for years to come.
When inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1999, Youngblood was writing books and magazine articles relating to motorcycling history and enjoying life with Margaret. The couple have two grown boys.