Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger dies aged 83 after brief battle with cancer

In an announcement pre-written by the biker before his death, he spoke of his life ‘filled with adventure’ and paid tribute to the ‘amazing club’ that he founded

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 30 June 2022 15:24 BST
<p>Sonny Barger pictured in 2003 in a film about the Hells Angels </p>

Sonny Barger pictured in 2003 in a film about the Hells Angels

Sonny Barger, the founder of the motorcycle club Hells Angels, has died aged 83 after a brief battle with cancer.

The biker, who was the face of the Harley Davidson-riding counterculture, died peacefully surrounded by his wife Zorona and loved ones.

His death was confirmed on his Facebook page, in an announcement pre-written by the biker before his passing where he spoke of his live “filled with adventure” and paid tribute to the “amazing club” that he founded.

“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,” read the Facebook post.

“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.”

The message continued: “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” he wrote.

“But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones.”

He closed out the announcement with a message to his followers and fellow bikers: “Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. Sonny HAMCO.”

Born in Modesto, California, Barger shot to notoriety after founding the original Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California, in 1957.

He went on to become the club’s national president and helped lead it to international fame, reported The Mercury News.

Aside from their instantly recognisable image of bearded, denim-clad motorcyclists riding Harley Davidsons, the Hells Angels – and Barger – became just as well-known for its brushes with the law.

In 1972, Barger and three other Angels were accused of murdering a Texas drug dealer in California before setting a building on fire.

All four were acquitted of the charges at trial.

Eight years later, Barger again avoided prison time in 1980 on a racketeering case.

In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to kill members of a rival motorcylcing club in Kentucky and blow up their headquarters.

He served five years in federal prison on the charges.

Barger also spent another eight years in and out of prison on various drug and firearms charges.

While the authorities have long claimed the Hells Angels was a criminal enterprise, Barger long accused the government of trying to oppress and target the club.

However, he also once proudly described the club as a band of “card-carrying felons”.

Later in life, Barger moved to Arizona for health reasons but then returned to his home state in 2016.

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