A resident of Reading, Pa., J. Lester Hillbish was an AMA Class C racer of the 1930s and '40s. He won the 1937 winner-take-all AMA championship race at the Springfield, Ill., mile, thereby earning the AMA Class C title.
Hillbish competed primarily aboard Indian motorcycles and won many events racing against notable competitors of the era such as AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Jimmy Chann and Woodsie Castonguay.
An account in the November-December 1936 issue of Indian News credits Hillbish with a victory at the 100-Mile National race at Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Speedway. That same issue states that Hillbish won the 40-Mile opening day race at New York’s Roosevelt Raceway.
The October-November 1939 Indian News reported that Hillbish won the AMA Class C race at Frederick, Md. Hillbish’s hometown paper, The Reading Eagle, reported on May 15, 1939 that Hillbish finished third in the 10-mile feature at the Reading Fairgrounds. Castonguay won that race, but Hillbish had the day’s fastest time trail lap of 30:26 seconds.
In 1939, Hillbish established a long-standing AMA Class C 50-mile dirt-track record for 45 ci (cubic inch) machines during a race at the Syracuse, N.Y., mile. His record time of 39:15:59 (average speed of 76.42 mph) stood well into the 1950s.
Hillbish died in 1977, and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.