July 17, 2024

Lakes

Thunder Roads Michigan - Lakes Segment Sponsored by: Port Huron Motorcycle Club

Rider Spotlight on Flat Track Racer Leo Anthony
Leo Anthony Sr. December 15th, 1916 – April 18th, 1998

Leo Anthony was born in Port Huron, Michigan, the son of Joseph and Helen Anthony.  Leo had five sisters and he was a lifelong resident of Port Huron.  He would start racing flat track in 1934 and start racing professionally in 1937.  Anthony wasted little time in showing his skills as he went out and finished second to Lester Hillbish at the Springfield mile in his first year as a professional.  In those days the Springfield Mile determined who was the Grand National Champion, so taking second at that time would be the equivalent of finishing second in the point series of modern times. Leo would become a Harley-Davidson factory rider and he would go on to win three National Races and a number of regional races.   

 

On February 8th, 1941, Leo would go on to marry the love of his life Betty and they would remain married until her death on May 23rd, 1991.  Leo had two boys and two girls.  Both of his boys raced flat track, ice raced, and rode street bikes. Two of his grandsons would also go on to race flat track, ice race, and ride street bikes as well.  Three generations of National Champions and successful motorcycle racers.  Betty was named by the AMA as one of the top ten most beautiful women of the AMA.  She was known to be a skilled motorcycle rider in her own right and could be seen driving her daughters around town on a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar.

 

 

 

 

During the Second World War, Anthony was called on to go out to Texas to be a civilian contractor that would train the military troops on how to ride Harley-Davidsons and work on them as well.  That didn’t happen though as Anthony was involved in a serious accident while riding his motorcycle out to Texas.  The accident happened in the St. Louis area and the gentleman that owned the Harley-Davidson Dealership there actually took Anthony into his home for two months while he was healing up.  He would end up just going back home to Betty instead of continuing on to Texas.  There was no National Flat track racing during the war.

 

 

After the Second World War ended, the national flat track races would resume.  Leo got back into racing and was still on the Harley factory racing team.  Anthony would have a great year of racing in 1947 especially.  Anthony won national races two weeks in a row and then went on to finish on the podium in both the Springfield Mile and the Milwaukee Mile.  A young Willie G. Davidson was in attendance at the Milwaukee Mile to see one of his racing heroes (Anthony) take second.  Willie G, would later go on to tell Leo Anthony Jr. that he was thrilled to see his favorite racer (Leo Anthony Sr.) flying in Milwaukee back in those days.  Anthony would go on to win one more national race in 1948 at the Spencer, Iowa National.  He was a force to be reckoned with through 1950 up until he retired.  

 

Anthony was friends with several of the Davidsons and both Walter Davidson Jr. and Willie G. Davidson were fans of Leo’s homemade spaghetti.  Willie G. would call Leo in his later years to chat with Leo and sometimes Larry Gilbert (owner of the Port Huron Harley-Davidson Dealer) would check on Leo.  Dale Walksler of Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum was also an acquaintance of Leo Anthony.  Anthony was known to go to Daytona and hang out with a lot of the older racers right up to his last years.

 

Leo Anthony Sr. is recognized in the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame having been inducted in 1998.  He was also inducted into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame and his pictures and name can be seen in both the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and Dales Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina as well as still gracing the pages of magazines and internet sites for motorcycling.  In his retirement years Anthony owned a Harley-Davidson Dealership for about 6 years, owned a few bars over the years, and owned a Yamaha Dealership for a few years.  Anthony was also a founding member of the Port Huron Motorcycle Club, enjoyed ice racing, street riding, and remained a member of the motorcycle club for the rest of his life.

 

 

 

Story by:  Stan Prapotnik
Sources from:
Port Huron Motorcycle Club
Leo Anthony Jr.
Angela Lewandowski 
AMA Hall Of Fame
Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame