Jules Horky devoted his entire life to motorcycling. He served as the AMA's competition director from 1946 until he retired from full-time service in 1974. Horky was a tireless advocate of the AMA, logging hundreds of thousands of miles, working long hours with meager recognition and dealing with the complexities of racing rules during the sport's most rapid growth. He built a strong national program through his personal service to volunteer leaders throughout the nation. Starting in the industry in 1927 as a self-proclaimed "greaseball" cleaning parts at a Philadelphia dealership, Horky had the opportunity to witness nearly the entire scope of modern motorcycle history in the United States.
Horky was born in Philadelphia on April 1, 1909. His father bought him his first motorcycle when he was 15. His first job in motorcycling was as a parts washer and shop cleaner at legendary AMA hillclimber Red Wolverton's Harley-Davidson shop in Philadelphia in 1927. While working in the shop, Horky bought a motorcycle and began playing motorcycle polo for the Philadelphia Quakers. The team traveled all over the U.S. playing teams from other cities.
Horky became a district official for the AMA in the early 1930s. He did about everything from registration to starting to refereeing and learned a great deal about racing. He was also heavily involved in the leadership of area motorcycle clubs. In the late 1930s, Horky was brought in to replace Fritzie Baer as a retail sales manager for Indian at its home dealership in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1938, Jules married Millie, an office worker at the Indian factory.
During World War II, Horky joined the Marines. After he returned from the service, AMA president E.C. Smith asked Horky to come to work for the AMA in Columbus. He began at the AMA in 1946, when the Association only consisted of Smith and one secretary. Horky was brought in to head up the burgeoning racing department. One of Horky's goals was to clean up the show in motorcycle racing. After Smith took Horky to an Ohio State football game, Smith asked what struck him most about the game. The vivid colors of the teams' uniforms, Horky replied. So another goal of Horky's was to get the racers to move away from the traditional drab black leather racing suits to add color to the spectacle of racing.
The 1950s saw a tremendous growth in racing. Horky sought to forge uniform rules enforcement and regulations among the various clubs across the country. This involved Horky traveling almost full time.
"Truth be known, I very rarely saw my husband, he was gone so much," recalled Millie Horky. Even when he was in Columbus, he would leave the house at 5 a.m. to get to the office early before things got busy. Once, he conducted 16 sanction meetings in various cities in only five days. All of the races across the country, amateur as well as professional, were kept track of on a giant board in his office that took up an entire wall. Jules was known for what some described as a straightforward and somewhat gruff manner in dealing with people. He didn't even keep an extra chair in his office, because he said he didn't have a lot of time for small talk with people. But he was ultimately complimented for being very efficient and fair and for running the competition department by the book.
In the early 1960s, Horky suffered a stroke. He had AMA employees bring his work to the hospital and he conducted business from his hospital bed.
A famous story about Horky was the time at a national hillclimb that a group of outlaw bikers was creating havoc. Horky went up and talked to them and to calm them down let a few from the group try out the hill on their choppers. Naturally the chopper riders didn't make it far and the entire crowd ended up in roaring laughter at the sight. Soon afterwards, everyone settled in to watch the pros take to the hill. That was vintage Horky, taking control of a situation and sometimes coming up with an unorthodox and creative solution.
One of the things that Horky disliked most when he came to work for the AMA was the association's old policy that employees could not ride motorcycles because it would show partisanship.
Even after Horky retired from full-time employment from the AMA in 1974, he stayed involved overseeing tech inspection at select races. Horky was named Grand Marshal for the Daytona 200 in 1974, his last full year with the AMA.
Horky could often be seen puffing steadily at a cigar. In the early days, he usually wore a black shirt and hat to distinguish him from the other AMA officials who were wearing white and the riders dubbed him the "Hatchetman." As it turned out, many of the same racers who gave him a hard time when he was with the AMA later told Horky that they respected him and his decisions.
Jules and Millie retired to Florida. Jules died in October of 1986. Millie is still active in promoting the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum and activities of the old-time racers and AMA members.
In 1996, the AMA created the AMA Jules Horky Award for Meritorious Service. The award is given to top individuals who have delivered more than 20 years of voluntary service to the association.