Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger dies aged 83 from cancer: Married biker said ‘I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club’ in message posted to Facebook after he died
- Sonny Barger has died aged 83 after a cancer battle surrounded by his wife Zorana and his loved ones
- The Oakland, California, biker was the founding member of the Hells Angels motorcycling group in the 1950s
- He had many run-ins with the law and spent some time in prison but beat murder and racketeering charges
Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels motorcycling club, has died aged 83 after a battle with cancer.
The California outlaw, who was involved in drugs and protection rackets, died surrounded by his wife Zorana and other loved ones.
A post shared on his Facebook page after his death included a farewell message from the biker to his legions of fans after 65 years as a member of the club.
Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels motorcycling club, has died aged 83 after a battle with cancer
The California outlaw, who was involved in drugs and protection rackets, died surrounded by his wife Zorana and other loved ones
The post read: ‘If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing.
‘I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club.
‘Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, I’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.
‘Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones.
‘Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor.’
Barger moved to Oakland, California, as a child and enlisted in the army underage after faking his birth certificate but soon became interested in motorcycle clubs.
A post shared on his Facebook page after his death included a farewell message from the biker to his legions of fans after 65 years as a member of the club
He says in one of his autobiographies that the Hells Angels were a small club in San Francisco which had fizzled out when he and other bikers decided to pick up the name, starting the Oakland Hells Angels, the club’s most significant charter.
He became the club’s national president and helped grow it to the international organization it is today.
But he had frequent run-ins with the law, spending several stretches in prison mostly for narcotic and firearm offences, but he has also avoided longer sentences after beating a number of more serious charges in court.
In 1972, Barger and three others were acquitted of murder after a Texas drug dealer was killed in Oakland and a residence was set on fire.
He was also let off for racketeering charges in a split verdict while nine others were convicted.
In his book Hells Angel, Barger claims he was sentenced to 30 years’ in jail but served just five and had addictions to ‘bikes, booze, girls and good times’.
After a rival gang stole Barger’s Harley Davidson, he hunted down the person responsible, before beating him senseless and breaking his fingers one by one with a hammer.
In Hunter S Thompson’s seminal book Hells Angels, Barger was described as the group’s ‘maximum leader’.
He has fiercely defended the group despite its multiple controversies, including when Meredith Hunter was killed by its members during a Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Barger said the Stones wanted to stop playing but he managed to convince Keith Richards to continue.
He recalled: ‘I stood next to him and stuck my pistol into his side and told him to start playing his guitar or he was dead.’
Barger was diagnosed with cancer in 1983 but continued to smoke three packs of Camel cigarettes a day and eventually had his vocal chords removed.