Having been born and raised in Mobile Alabama, obviously I took part in the annual Mardi Gras celebration, since Mobile Alabama is where Mardi Gras originated. As a child, during the 1960’s, the Mardi Gras parades were full of life and frivolity, however during the parades, most of my attention was focused on the Mobile Police Officers who were riding Harley Davidson Police Motorcycles. I was excited by the awesome display as they raced their motorcycles up and down the street with their lights flashing accented by the prominent Harley Davidson Wheel Siren attached to the motorcycles front fender. The siren would sound as if it were a fire truck as they raced to the next intersection where the wheel siren slowly ran out of sound.
Well as they say, the rest is history. During the 1970’s, when I was old enough, I joined the Mobile Police Department’s Junior Police Program. In 1980 I became a full time member of the Mobile Police Department in Mobile Alabama. Twenty-nine years later I am still a member and hold the rank of Police Lieutenant. Shortly after becoming a patrol officer I was assigned to the department’s traffic division and was assigned a police motorcycle.
As I grew older I began to really miss the old Harley Davidson police motorcycles, and thought that it would be a great idea to find a 1960’s or 1970’s era police bike, and restore it to the likes of the old Mobile Police Department motorcycles. My search consisted mostly of the online auction site, Ebay. In September 2008, I found a 1966 Harley Davidson Police Motorcycle on Ebay, in the neighboring state of Mississippi, and bought it. The first week of October 2008, I drove from Mobile to nearby Hattiesburg Mississippi and retrieved my newly discovered treasure. The motorcycle was in great shape and in running condition. It was obvious to me that the motorcycle had really been cared for. The bike did not resemble a police motorcycle, and had been converted to a street bike. Fortunately for me it still had the stock police speedometer still attached.
The motorcycle was originally purchased by the Laurel Police Department, in Laurel Mississippi, in 1966. It served the citizens of Laurel for several years until it was sold. The individual, who purchased the motorcycle from the city of Laurel, was a Laurel Police Officer who actually rode the motorcycle for the department. It changed hands a couple of times prior to my purchase, fortunately for me, everyone who owned it cared for it immensely.
Now that I own the motorcycle, it was time to start the restoration project. I began by purchasing the old police equipment needed for the transformation using Ebay as my main source. A friend of mine, Mr. James Guy, specializes in paint and bodywork so he was the obvious choice. Next I found a business in Fairhope Alabama who specializes in restoration projects of vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles, and so Retro Cycle Works, Inc., began the task of returning the motorcycle back to its’ roots as a police motorcycle.
When all the work was completed I dedicated the bike to the memory of a deceased mentor of mine. Lieutenant Gus Newell. Gus, as he was affectionately known, joined the Mobile Police Department in 1955 and spent the most of his career riding a police motorcycle. Gus was also a well-known figure in the Mobile area, and was loved by all, and worked his way up through the ranks, finally serving as a motorcycle Sergeant. Several years later he went on to become the Lieutenant in charge of the Mobile Police Department’s Traffic Division, a position I would hold myself many years later. Gus was the first supervisor on the department who put me on a police motorcycle. He also was much more than my boss, he was my friend, and my advisor on many lessons in life. The motorcycle seal affixed to each saddlebag resembles the exact seal used by the city of mobile, however the seals on my motorcycle state, “In Memory of Lt. Gus Newell.” Unfortunately Gus died years before this bike became a reality, which makes the project every bit as important.
It is an honor to own such a piece of history, and even a greater honor to ride a motorcycle that is dedicated to a person such as Gus Newell. This motorcycle will be used for parades and special events and other such happenings around our city. There are no words to describe the feeling of owning such a classic. It is very gratifying to see the expression of delight on the faces of people who are amazed at the sight of this vintage police motorcycle.
This motorcycle is receiving it fair share of attention. The Leader Call, a Laurel Mississippi newspaper has published a story about the motorcycle, along with the Press Register, a Mobile Alabama newspaper.