The History of ABATE
Originally published in the February 1972 issue of Easyriders Magazine
We are off and running, after a slight delay caused by having to change the name of our organization. It was discovered at the last moment that the NCCA name was not available for use as a non-profit corporate name-the initials being too similar to those of another corporate name. So, as long as we had to create a new name for the organization, it was decided to create a name with letters that spelled a word describing the organization's purpose. It was a bitch to do, let me tell you -try it some time. After much hassle, we came up with ABATE (which means to put an end to; to reduce in degree or intensity; to beat down; to decrease in force or intensity). The letters stand for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian (i.e., strict control by coercive measures; completely regulated by the state) Enactments (i.e. to make (as a bill) into law). A mouthful, to be sure, but it lays it all out in front of God and everybody, exactly why the brotherhood was formed-to protect individual freedom of the road. Our mission is positive. We want to educate the lawmakers, to give them our side of the
story, before laws are enacted, and we are devoted to working aggressively toward the abatement of all unfair, unjustified, arbitrary anti-bike laws everywhere. Our insignia is a no-nonsense, uptight eagle that our firm, no-bullshit, resolved to get the job done. Now, not tomorrow. We all know what our problems are, so let's get it on, rather than merely sitting around on our asses complaining about them. - Lou Kimzey, Editor Easyriders Magazine
The history of ABATE of Illinois is a bit of a tangled web. There have been no fewer than four separate renderings of ABATE of Illinois. The first version of ABATE of Illinois was founded circa 1975. Bill Orce, Jerry Timm and others from more or less the Chicago area came together in response to Easyriders call to join together and oppose the threat of federal restrictions on modifying motorcycles. This first ABATE of Illinois lasted until 1985. In 1985 due to inactivity and failure to file with the Secretary of State the initial ABATE of Illinois charter became defunct.
In the Spring of 1985 Central Illinois ABATE, formerly ABATE of Illinois District #3, attempted to re-establish a statewide ABATE presence. Central Illinois ABATE filed a charter with the State of Illinois and essentially functioned as the state organization. By December 1986 there were 11 separate ABATE chapters across the State of Illinois. Central Illinois (6/85), Chicago (1/86), Freeport (3/86), Heart of Illinois (6/86), Lincoln Land (10/86), Northern Illinois (10/86), Peo-Taz (10/86), Piasa-Gateway (10/86), South Suburban (10/86), Southern Freedom (12/86) and Eastern Illinois (12/86). In April 1986 Dave Rosen of Aurora IL filed on the vacant name ABATE of Illinois. Later that year in November the name ABATE of Illinois was turned over to a group of representatives
In the early 1970s Keith Ball became involved with Easyriders and took on the roll of Director of ABATE. The process of establishing regional, state and county chapters of ABATE began. A formindable Motorcycle Rights Organization was beginning to take shape. Better communication and networking led to scientific studies providing fact based evidence that choppers were safe to operate. This allowed a legal defense against unsafe vehicle tickets. By the mid 1970s questions about the national direction of ABATE were beginning to surface. In March of 1977 a State Coordinators meeting was held in Daytona FL. At this meeting it was decided that formal organization was needed in the form of charters and by-laws. Out of this meeting five national regional coordinators were elected. A second meeting was scheduled for Labor Day of 1977 in Kansas City. Lou Kimzey was unable to make the Kansas City meeting. As a result he scheduled a meeting for October of 1977 in Sacramento CA. There had been significant infighting over the leadership and direction of ABATE. Lou paid the airfare for those attending the meeting in Sacramento and announced he was requilinshing the organization to the people attending the meeting in Sacramento. This insured that ABATE would be able to move forward as an independent motorcycle right's organization representing the interest of all motorcyclists. Today each state ABATE organization is independently incorporated and operated. The Motorcycle Rider's Foundation (MRF) functions as a national umbrella allowing state MROs to organize and respond to national issues. Click here for more on ABATE's early beginnings.
from the chapters. This incorporation of ABATE of Illinois was used until June 1987. The fourth version of ABATE of Illinois was chartered with the state on June 5, 1987. This is the current charter that all state chapters are incorporated under. ABATE of Illinois has been operating continuously under this charter since 1987. ABATE of Illinois, the 1987 version, held its very first State Party that very same year. That party was held at Rolling Hills Campground in Penfield, IL. Rolling Hills is now the current location of Eastern Illinois ABATE’s Summer Boogie. Click here for more on the History of ABATE of Illinois.
The idea of an ABATE chapter in the eastern part of central Illinois began in the Fall of 1986 at a local toy run. This run was hosted by a local businessman and proprietor of Mid-State Cycles, Bob Cleary. A handful of businessmen, club members and independent riders thought it would be a good idea to start a local ABATE chapter and support the movement to oppose legislative infringement on motorcycling. Shortly thereafter the first meeting was held in the Urbana Civic Center and in December of 1986 the Eastern Illinois chapter of ABATE of Illinois was incorporated. From this handful of freedom fighters Eastern Illinois ABATE has grown into one of the largest ABATE chapters in the State of Illinois, consistently in the top 3 for membership. From the very beginning Eastern has been an active and consistent presence in the local motorcycling community in Champaign and Vermillion counties. Eastern hosts two main events each year. The Summer Boogie takes place the first weekend in June at Rolling Hills Campground, the site of the first ABATE of Illinois State Party. And, the Eastern Illinois ABATE Toyz Run. The Toyz Run is one of the oldest toy runs in the State of Illinois eclipsed only by the Chicago Toys for Tots Parade. The Toyz Run was established by Bob Cleary of Mid-State Cycles and as the run grew Bob
approached Eastern Illinois ABATE about taking over management of the run. It has been a great partnership. Eastern hosts two runs in the Spring, the Spring Fever Run and the Roll the Bones Memorial Run. Eastern has established a good reputation for their broomstick pool tournaments, Fall Halloween Party and Christmas Chapter Party. Eastern also has a strong education presence in local high school driver education classes and is active in maintaining relationships with local politicians and legislators. Eastern is recognized for its strong support of other area chapters and state events. Just about anyone you talk to will tell you; when you’re with Eastern you always have a good time. Remember, membership is open to anyone 18 years or older. Click here to Join ABATE.
There is one last piece of ABATE of Illinois history that needs to be shared. Nationally ABATE of Illinois has always been recognized as a strong committed leader in the areana of motorcyclist’s rights. Much of that tireless commitment can be traced to the story of Donald “Frosty” Fries and Rich “Neb” Nebelsick. The set up for this story is that in 1966 the federal government of the United States extorted the States through the Highway Safety Act of 1966 to put helmets on all motorcycle riders. This required all states to pass mandatory motorcycle helmet laws or lose federal highway dollars. Prior to this act two states, Illinois and California, had been resisting the strong arm tactics of the feds. As the story goes in 1967 Donald was out riding his motorcycle exercising his freedom of choice by not wearing a helmet. He came upon an accident in Wood River, IL and as bikers do he stopped to offer assistance. At the scene of the accident he waved over the police for help and for his trouble he was issued a citation for not wearing a helmet and taken to jail. Eventually he was found
guilty in Madison County of violating the state's mandatory helmet statute. This where Neb enters the story. Neb owned a motorcycle shop in Belleville, IL and Frosty happened to walk into the shop one day complaining about the helmet citation he had received. Neb didn’t think it was right. He was a strong believer in the Constitutionally protected freedoms we share. He believed in those rights and freedoms so much that he bankrolled Frosty’s appeal of his conviction. He eventually mortgaged his business and he and Frosty fought the State of Illinois all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. On May 28, 1969 the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the State of Illinois’ mandatory helmet statute was unconstitutional. The court found the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in that the statute singled out motorcyclist as a class and discriminated against them. The right of choice was affirmed. This was a huge victory for motorcyclist rights advocates all across the country. All motorcyclists owe Donald Fries and Rich Neb a deep measure of gratitude and thanks. Rich Neb is an inductee to the Sturgis Freedom Fighters Hall of Fame and ABATE of Illinois’ highest achievement award is aptly named the Rich Neb Award. The Illinois ruling allowed a number of states to repeal their mandatory state helmet laws in the early 70s. Unfortunately through the efforts of business interests and government entities in the late 70s through the 90s helmet laws remain a reality in every state of the union except New Hampshire, Iowa and Illinois. Now, as always, we need all motorcyclist to join the fight for freedom. It’s always been about freedom of choice. Let Those Who Ride Decide!