I heard the sad news last week that Greg Harrison, former Vice President of Membership and Communications, passed away.
He was 66.
When I came to the AMA to work communications in Pro Racing, Greg was one of the few people I was acquainted with, having talked to him on occasion at AMA Superbike events and for a couple of American Motorcyclist writing/photography assignments he sent my way.
Greg was AMA through and through. He loved the association and did everything he could to provide the AMA members the full spectrum of motorcycling on the pages of American Motorcyclist.
He also spent our membership money very judiciously. As a freelancer in the 1980s and ‘90s, I knew if I managed to get something in the AMA’s magazine, that I would be paid fairly, but not quite on the scale of most of the other glossy motorcycle magazines. On the other hand, they always paid promptly and that went a long way in gaining the trust of contributors. But more importantly in those days, I was a true believer in the AMA and was proud to see my byline in the magazine.
After I came to AMA Pro Racing, I used to give him grief for making the AM staff stay in hotels an hour inland from Daytona. He did it to save the AMA hundreds of dollars in hotel costs, but I felt bad for his hard-working staff who would cover all the Bike Week activities and would be among the first ones there in the morning and the last ones out at night
When I came on board as a staff member of AMA Pro Racing in 1995, Greg’s door was always open to me should I have any questions, and trust me I walked into his office a lot. At the time, I wrote more news releases than anyone had ever attempted. Those included pre-event release for all Pro Racing events, as well as post-race releases, championship releases, sponsorship releases and on and on. I remember one particularly busy day in the office I wrote six news releases!
Inevitably with that kind of volume, some of the releases left my computer that were a little shy of the AMA’s high standards. I owe a great deal of credit to Greg (along with Bill Amick and Bill Wood) for taking the time to send back releases to me with corrections and or edit suggestions.
My writing improved rapidly under their guidance.
Whenever I had a historical question, if Bill Boyce wasn’t in the building, Greg was one of the first I’d call. He kept a complete set of bound back issues of the AM in his office and if he didn’t know the answer off the top of his head, Greg would twirl around in his chair and find the appropriate back issue to find the info I sought.
Greg was well liked by everyone at the AMA and among his peers in the rest of the industry.
I found myself without a motorcycle at one point. Greg heard about it and graciously offered to sell me his mint Yamaha SRX600 at a ridiculously low price. I wish I’d taken him up on the offer.
After I left AMA Pro Racing in 1997, moved back to Indiana and once again became a freelancer, Greg did all he could to send work my way.
Greg should have finished his career and retired from the AMA, but new leadership came in and in 2008 he was unceremoniously shown the door. He was one of the massive brain drain of senior leadership from the association during that period and frankly, the AMA has never recovered. Greg later served on the editorial staff with the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.
I was greatly saddened by the fact Greg was no longer in the job he loved the AMA, but he bounced back and the people in the know understood that during his tenure, the AMA reached all-time highs in terms of membership and importance within the industry. – Larry Lawrence