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Friday, April 20, 2012

An Article about my dear friend Rogue and fellow Sturgis Hall of Fame inductee:

John "Rogue" Herlihy
The title of American Biker Legend is seldom based on a single character trait, accomplishment or event and nowhere is that more evident than in the case of John "Rogue" Herlihy. His credits include, but are not limited to, posts as one-time international president of the Huns MC, principle of the Connecticut Motorcycle Association, and lifelong leader in the fight for motorcyclists' rights.
Reverend John Joseph Francis Herlihy -- aka Rogue -- first set eyes upon the world when he was born to a German mother and Irish father in the bllue collar environs of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Growing up just a few blocks from the high crime district of the city wharfs, Herlihy became street smart at an early age in a pointedly immigrant neighborhood where it meant survival.
When his father moved into the business of hardscrabble local politics, young John accompanied him on trips to chauffeur newly recruited voters. "I was the polite young man who opened the car doors for the people we transported to the polls. And my eyes and ears were open at all times." This mixture of street "cred", peppered with a growing political know how, would serve him well in the future.
With a hankering to become an accomplished mechanic, at 18 Herlihy signed up for a 4 year stint in the Air Force. He was stationed in North Africa during a period that overlapped both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. When he came out, "I knew my way around everything from a lawn mower to a locomotive," he says. His career as a mechanic was solidified.
Herlihy first became involved in motorcycle rights when the city of Birdgeport attempted to ban motorcycles from city parks in 1959. Drawing on his early indoctrina- tion to the "political power in numbers" theory learned at his father's knee, he leveraged his mem- bership in the Fairfield County Motorcycle Association and was successful in helping overturn the ban. His appetite whet for justice, Herlihy built a reputation for his grassroots organization of demonstrations for bikers' rights.
Then came the federal government's move in the 1970s to force states into passing laws it favored by threatening to withhold highway funds if they did not comply. One of those laws was the mandatory helmet law. By then protest-savvy under Herlihy's tutelage, the bikers won battle after battle and it seemed like victory was at hand. Connecticut Congressman Stu McKinney had introduced Bill 3869 to the US House of Representatives. If passed, it would bar the government from acting on its threat.
It was July 21, 1975, Rogue retells, "There were a lot of people testifying at the bill's hearing and I was one of them. I only had one question, 'When did the federal government of the United States begin condoning blackmail?' You could hear a pin drop. When asked to explain I told the committee what the legislature was doing in Connecticut and the governor's position. The chairman said it was hard for him to believe to which I responded that I myself had actually held and read the letter from the government to my governor. So he said he would like to read the letter as well and could I produce it by the morning. Without thinking, I said yes.
I called Governor Grasso but her first reaction was she didn't want problems with the federal government. When I explained this would end that as well as her constituents' protests, she agreed to help. She made a copy of the letter in question and wrote a letter of her own. One of our local Huns members picked them up and rode like hell down to D.C. Like a scene out of a Hollywood movie he delivered it in the nick of time. I was really fired up when the hearing started but before I could talk the speaker said, 'Reverend Herlihy, you can stop beating a dead horse. You win.' The national blackmail threat was history and the helmet law was repealed in Connecticut." In the wake of victory, Herlihy stepped up his efforts to help other states achieve similar success.
In 1970, Herlihy became a contributor to Colors Magazine, in an ill-fated yet groundbreaking publication that catered primarily to the East Coast outlaw bike clubs.
The magazine folded after only 6 issues but Rogue’s career as a commen- tator did not. In 1972, Lou Kimzey, founding father of ABATE and then publisher of a new venture called Easyrider Magazine, recruited him for that publication in earnest. Rogue’s voice has been heard in a variety of biker media ever since.
In September 1978, Herlihy moved to Florida where he was instrumental in starting Spacecoast ABATE. He is a lifetime member of the American Motorccle Association (AMA), ABATE of Florida, and Harley Owners Group (HOG). He is also a member of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) and Bro and was at one time a certified instructor with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).
Herlihy's company, Rogue Motorcycle and Event Photography in Palm Bay, sees him traveling to motorcycle events around the country as a reporter, testing products and parts for manufacturers, and -- in rare cases -- still laying hands on an intriguing bike project now and then. His current membership in Bikers of Lesser Tolerance (B.O.L.T.) is testament fo continued activism in his "golden years".
The slight yet tight-framed Irishman's twinkling eyes still underscore the genetics of a confirmed fighter, as do his words, "Anti-bike legislation is an insidious thing. It creeps and it slithers and it consumes. Slowly, imperceptibly, it will consume all in its path unless it's stopped."
In honor of the man behind those words, John "Rogue" Herlihy was inducted into the Freedom Fighters section of the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame in South Dakota in 2005.