Sturgis Motorcycle Museum - Preserving our Motorcycle Hertiage

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DON VODDEN


Hall of Fame Inductee - 2003


Don Vodden was one of the last Charter Members of the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and was competitor in the 1938 motorcycle race, the first Sturgis race that was to become the humble beginnings of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. 


Born and raised in Sturgis, Don became interested in motorcycles in high school in the 30's. To support his hobby, Don held three jobs. He purchased his first motorcycle, a 1918 Harley-Davidson JD, when he was 15. In 1937 Don became a member of the Jackpine Gypsies. The Gypsies did most of the leg-work in making the first AMA sanctioned races a success. Don helped the ladies serve lunch and raced in the Saturday and Sunday half mile races. 


A successful boxer (1939 Middleweight SD State Golden Gloves Champion), Don turned professional and began fighting in boxing matches in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana. In May of 1939, after winning his match at Deadwood, Vodden rode all night to compete in the Island Grove Park Speed Classic. Vodden won his heat race, placed third in the time trials and took home a $65.00 purse. 


Don Vodden joined the US Army, a career choice that he enjoyed until his retirement in 1962. While in the Army, Don gave a pep talk to a young officer languishing in a military hospital in Michigan. The young officer went home to Kansas and became Senator Bob Dole and the 1996 presidential nominee of the Republican Party. During his career Don always tired to make it home to Sturgis for the Rally and after his retirement he has attended the Rally nearly every year until his death in 2011.

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