Eddie James, 1963 – 2009
by Sev Pearman
Minnesota motorcyclists lost a great friend this winter with the passing of Eddie James. Edmund Clarence James III was tragically killed in a two-vehicle crash Dec. 6th, 2009, in Atlanta, Georgia. He collided with a vehicle stopped in a lane of traffic on the Interstate. At the time of the accident, Eddie was wearing a helmet, motorcycle jacket and gloves. According to witnesses, he initiated evasive maneuvers. There are conflicting reports as to whether the driver of the stopped van had lights or flashers on. Vehicular manslaughter charges are pending against the other driver. Eddie James was 46.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Eddie was a passionate, life-long motorcyclist who had made Atlanta his home for the last year. Eddie’s career always followed his love of motorcycling. His early years were spent working in several Twin Cities motorcycle dealerships. His formidable memory made him an excellent parts man with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hodaka, Yamaha, Honda, Harley and BMW machines.
In 1984 he founded TeamStrange Airheads, one of the leading long-distance riding organizations in the nation. TeamStrange hosts a variety of entertaining, challenging motorcycle events, including the Minnesota 1,000 and the Butt Lite®.
At the start of his career, Eddie rode a series of Yamaha XS-400s, piling over 100,000 miles on the humble twins. He switched to BMWs and fell in love. Eddie clocked well over 700,000 miles on BMWs; a figure documented with service and club event records. He also competed with the Central Roadrace Association (CRA) racing his BMWs at Brainerd International Raceway.In 1998, he accepted his dream job as National Road Riding Director at the American Motorcyclist Association. In 2006, he joined the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s “Ride For Kids” as a National Ride Manager. In 2009, Eddie took advantage of early retirement and rode tens of thousands of miles all over the country in preparation for his role as Rally Master for the 2010 Iron Butt 5,000.
From the start of his motorcycling career, Eddie was an ardent supporter of motorcycling organizations. While in Minnesota, he supported the CRA, West Bike MC and the Twin Cities Norton OC. He supported several national clubs including the BMWMOA, BMWRA, HOG, LDR and both Gold Wing clubs, years before he bought his GL-1800. He supported the MMRA, ABATE, IBA, the AMA and other national organizations.
All of us at Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly had a direct connection to Eddie, the common thread being competition in TeamStrange or other Eddie James-created events. It is unlikely that we would have met were it not for Eddie’s common connection with each of us. Our editorial philosophy is hugely influenced by Eddie’s beliefs: that motorcycling is so much more than a fair-weather past time; that we all can continue to grow and stretch as riders and that anything is possible on two wheels.
Eddie liked to examine what was possible, the unknown, and the joy of discovery. He was fond of citing, “Far away is only far away, if you don’t go there,” (attributed to Danny Liska, author of Two Wheels to Adventure) All of us here at MMM believe that his greatest gift was his ability to inspire and motivate other riders.
The list of Minnesota riders who have found success in long distance events is lengthy. These successes are a direct result of his inspiration and guidance. Eddie was proud of the accomplishments of TeamStrange riders, including the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes by the “Minnesota Wrecking Crew” in the 2003 Iron Butt Rally.
Will Outlaw earned the 4th place spot that year and recalled, “Eddie made you feel something. He had that weird aura around him, like he had energy to spare and like it or not you were going to get some of the extra”.
Eddie is survived by his fiancée, Lisa Erbes of Atlanta, brother Jon Johnson and many other family members. Eddie is also survived by long-time companion Lyle and many other friends whom he considered family. He will be sorely missed.
A charitable foundation is being created in Eddie’s memory. The Eddie James Foundation for Children will provide resources to children and young adults who have suffered from abuse and neglect.
Ride on, my brother.