As we start the 2005 racing season, full of expectations and hopes for new records and new stars to emerge, we should stop for a moment and think about all those stars in the racing firmament who have left us. Men and women who made a great...
As we start the 2005 racing season, full of expectations and hopes for new records and new stars to emerge, we should stop for a moment and think about all those stars in the racing firmament who have left us. Men and women who made a great impact on American Motorsports, and whose absence will make our sport just a bit poorer for their passing. We mourn the passing of James L. Lindsley. Jim was born in 1917, in Santa Monica, California, and grew up during the depression. Contracting polio, Jim forced himself by sheer will power to overcome that dreaded disease and walk, though his legs always remained weak. Fathers of that era had a difficult time finding work to support their families, and children often earned as much as the parents. Jim was very creative and worked as a paperboy and gardener. Hobos and desperate men of that era would target paperboys, who had a pocketful of nickels, enough to feed a man for a week.
Jim was no pushover. He would fill a sock with ball bearings and tie the sock around his wrist. Anyone trying to rob him of those precious nickels would receive an arm-breaking blow. He would knock on a neighbor's door and ask if he could mow the lawn. With a leg in a metal brace and a wheelchair nearby, the neighbors would feel great emotion for him and offer to pay him extra, wondering how he would manage to do the job. Jim had hired other boys in the neighborhood to do the work. His job was to find them the work and split the money with them. His inventiveness and drive spilled over into his future vocation as an electrician, and as a land speed racer.
Since the 1930's, Jim Lindsley's passion was going to the Dry Lakes in Southern California, and later to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, to race land speed cars. Jim showed me his car plaques that he had received for each time that he went racing, and these thin metal tags filled two shoeboxes. Jim was a dynamic man, but he also had a dynamic family. His wife Phyllis volunteered to handle the records for the SCTA, or the Southern California Timing Association, and faithfully did so for many decades. Jim also volunteered to work in the SCTA, in whatever capacity he was asked to do. Many times he would stop by and ask Ak Miller, Bozzy Willis, Wally Parks and other officials if they needed help, especially with the electrical work, lights or timing equipment. Jim's land speed racing and volunteerism earned him the respect of the racing community, many awards and induction into the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame, at the Gas-Up Party held at Jack Mendenhall's Gas Pump Museum, in Buellton, California. Burke LeSage organized and spoke at the funeral service. LeSage, a protégé and self-appointed adopted son of Jim, spoke with deep respect for the man he always called his mentor. LeSage said that Jim always strove for excellence, and was a person of class, as was his wife Phyllis. LeSage called others up to the podium to speak. Les Leggitt lauded Lindsley for his hard work, honesty and knowledge. "If you want something done," said Leggitt, "ask Jim."
John Helash came to the podium and told the congregation that you could trust Jim's word in all things. Both Helash and Leggitt are past presidents of SCTA, as was Lindsley. Al Teague said that a person may not like what Lindsley said at the time, but it was frank and honest advice. Jim treated him like his own son. Jim's granddaughter, Heather, said that the Lindsley family helps each other, a legacy from her grandfather. Neil Thompson added that if you needed help, there was no one better to turn to than Jim Lindsley. Jim Travis told us how much Jim put into SCTA. Without Jim, and his sons, Larry, Gary and Fred, and his wife Phyllis, there wouldn't have been a Bonneville Nationals in 1952. Travis restarted the Gear Grinders club after many of the original members had left. He went to Jim, who gave him all the records and a great deal of encouragement. Travis said there is no family in racing as efficient in getting a car ready to run as the Lindsley's. They function like clockwork. Travis said that Phyllis Lindsley needs to be recognized by the car clubs as well, for whatever Jim achieved, his love of his life was there at his side, working just as hard for their family, landspeed racing and the SCTA.
LeSage brought the service to an end by commenting how Jim would always stop and help other people. Once Jim stopped and helped a young Alex Xydias change a flat tire, beginning a friendship with the man who would go on to found the famous So-Cal Speedshop. "Jim Lindsley, said LeSage, "is equal to Unser, Petty, Foyt and others in the racing world, and three generations of the family have been involved in the SCTA." Wally Parks, an original member of the Road Runners car club, SCTA, and President of the SCTA in 1946, could not make the services, but said that there was no one in the organization that was more trustworthy and hardworking that Jim Lindsley, or more honest. Jim received many honors from the organization. He was a member of the 200 MPH (Mile per Hour) club, and twice selected as the Man of the Year in that club. For all of his achievements and accolades, the greatest honor to the man was the respect shown by those who came to pay their last respects and by the family that he left behind, who will continue to race in that unique sport of land speed racing.