From his days as an expert dirt tracker, to his role as a dealer and sponsor of notable racers, Melbourne “Mike” J. Wilson made motorcycling a major part of his life. Mike, along with his wife, Margaret (inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004), served as a tireless ambassador of the sport and was an active proponent for preserving the history and heritage of motorcycling for decades.
Born on March 2, 1920, in Rice Lake, Wis., Wilson started racing as a novice 1939, but his race career was put aside when he was called to active duty, serving as a fighter pilot during World War II. In 1950, Mike and Margaret opened Wilson's Motorcycle Sales, a Harley-Davidson and later a Honda dealership, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Mike raced as an expert-licensed dirt track racer, winning the Iowa TT State Championship in 1956. He was the last racer to enter the Peoria TT race aboard a 74-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson in 1958. Wilson's Motorcycle Sales sponsored many racers, including Hall of Famer John Tibben, who captured the Iowa State Championship six times and also competed in the AMA Grand National Championship. Mike was also involved with helping Hall of Famer Leo Payne set several drag racing records and a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
While running the motorcycle dealership, Mike and Margaret were active supporters of a number of local and national motorcycling associations. They founded the Corn State Riders Motorcycle Club and were active supporters of the American Motorcyclist Association and Motor Maids of America. Mike and Margaret were among the first to wear helmets and protective clothing when riding with clubs and friends, and encouraged others to do the same.
After 25 years of running Wilson's Motorcycle Sales, Mike and Margaret turned even more of their attention to promoting and preserving the heritage of motorcycling. Mike and Margaret both served on the board that established the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the museum that houses it. They also were among the museum's principal benefactors for many years. They commissioned and donated the beautiful bronze sculpture “Glory Days” that currently serves as the centerpiece of the Hall of Fame itself and functions as the official logo of the museum. Mike has also contributed in the design and development of displays at the museum.
While they have toured extensively over the years, in 1996 Mike and Margaret toured all 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces over three-and-a-half months, with Mike aboard his Honda Gold Wing and Margaret aboard her Harley-Davidson. Mike and Margaret continued to attend motorcycling events and conventions, and promoting motorcycling to all generations of riders, until their passing.
Mike Wilson passed away on Feb. 2, 2015.