Ride in Peace: J.R. Kelley, founder of KK Motorcycle Supply

Publish Date: 
Dec 10, 2012

DAYTON, Ohio - The industry mourns the loss of Harry "J.R." Kelley Jr., founder of KK Motorcycle Supply, past president of the AMA and a Motorcycle Hall of Fame recipient, who died Dec. 8. He was 86.

Kelley, according to the company, launched the business in the back of his father's motorcycle dealership and grew it into a premium distributorship. After building the business for 20 years, he turned it over to the company's first employee, Tim Wourms, who continued to run KK as president for the next three decades. The company is currently owned by J.R.'s son, Patrick, and grandson, Bryan.

The company issued the following statement today:

"Not everyone felt the same way about [J.R. Kelley]. Many came to love him because he touched their lives with boundless gestures of support and caring. Many envied him because of his accomplishments and prosperity. Others admired him because of these accomplishments and because so many people loved him. There are those who feared him because he did not condescend to the big and powerful but rallied the little people to accomplishment and success. Most respected him because of the person he became due to his honesty and high work ethics; to him, working hard and smart [was and is] the only way to be.

"He believed not in just selling products, but in becoming a partner with his customers to improve both his and their companies. He believed in supporting the motorcycle industry to make a difference in the quality of life in communities.

"He grew up tough, busting knuckles by wrenching the motorcycles his father sold... and banging handlebars with greats like Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman and Dick Klanfoth.

"He weathered stormy seasons as president of the American [Motorcyclist] Association and helped the AMA improve its service, increase its membership and become an important legislative body. His work with dealer associations and the Motorcycle Industry Council helped organize efforts to make the industry stronger, more professional and financially more viable. He was the first recipient of the MIC's 'Man of the Year' award, in 1986, which called him a leader in the motorcycle business, a man who dedicated his life to the advancement of the motorcycle industry in the United States."

Kelley also received the Dudley Perkins Award from the AMA, the Cycle News Award, and Motorcyclist Magazine's All-Star Award at Daytona. He was a member of the Ohio Hall of Fame, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and one of Dayton's Top 10 Citizens. 

The company is requesting that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Kelley's memory to the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, 13515 Yarmouth Dr., Pickerington OH 43147.

Posted by Mary Slepicka