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James Washburn

James "Jimmy" Washburn, one of the greatest motor cycle stunt riders and racers, was called by the Heavenly Father on April 9th.  He was 61, stricken by cancer.

Jimmy, as he was known to friends, was famous throughout San Jose and California.  His cycling records have been matched by no Deaf and few hearing.  In a span of three years, he collected 280 trophies and countless other honors.  Proclaimed by the Australian Motor Cyclist Club as "Champion of Champions", Jimmy was given by the club a large trophy valued at over $750.  Among his mementoes are a silver plate in his head, several missing toes on a foot, burns over three-quarters of his body.

Jimmy raced against the best in the world in Australia, Germany, France and England, and faced some of the best stunt riders in the world.

Some time ago, Jimmy told the writer how he first became interested in motorcycling.  One day when he was 16, it was 1925, he met several Deaf on cycles.  They were from San Francisco and Oakland.  The roar of their bikes thrilled him, and he vowed to own one.  He worked at picking fruit at 10 cents a box, and saved enough money to buy his first cycle.  When he proudly arrived home onit, his dad blew his top and told him to get rid of it.  Jimmy hid it at a friend's home. This humble beginning started Jimmy Washburn on the way to fame.  He owned the famous Washburn Motor Cycle Circus and performed stunts that thrilled millions at state fairs in every state in America.  He appeared in the movie as a stunt man, crashing through flaming walls and leaping over 8 cars parked side by side.  The highlight of his career was his selection in 1934 and 1935 as the Champion of the International Congress of Daredevils at St. Louis.  He appeared in motion pictures which were titled "Cyclomania" and "Crash Donovan".

In the San Jose Mercury News edition of June 12, 1968, Sports columnist, Mr. Bill Feist, said that Jimmy introduced acts in stuntland that were considered impossible. "His winning stunt" said Feist, "was hurtling through the air on his cycle over eight sedans, a stupendous leap of 65 feet through space."  "Perhaps the greatest and most publicized of Washburn's stunt," he also said, "is the Flaming Tunnel Wall Crash".  It consists of a tunnel 25 feet long, constructed in box-like fashion and boarded at one end with inch-thick planks.  The entire structure is saturated with 20 or more gallons of high octane, which is fired.  Washburn, wearing only a crash helmet and leathers for protection, roars his steed into the inferno. 

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