Jimmy Walthour Jr. was born on January 3, 1910. His father was a bicycle racer turned vaudeville trick cyclist. Jimmy Sr. And Mrs. Walthour had a vaudeville act that was very popular. Jimmy Sr. would ride a bicycle on a home trainer while Jimmy's mother would ride a white horse on a treadmill. A large dial would track who was ahead.
Jimmy's uncle Bobby Walthour Jr. (his father's twin brother), was a successful six-day racer in the USA. Jimmy is the nephew of the cycling legend Bobby Walthour, "the Dixie Flyer". With these cycling credentials and genetic heritage there is no doubt that Jimmy was marked for greatness. Growing up in New York City within blocks of Madison Square Garden Jimmy knew at an early age that he wanted to be a professional cyclist.
Under the guidance of his father, Jimmy started competing as a teen ager in amateur cycling events and by fifteen years old was recognized as a cycling prodigy. In 1927, at 17 years old, Jimmy won the Amateur Cycling Championship of America on both the track and the road.
He was chosen to represent the USA in cycling at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics but instead signed a professional contract with John Chapman, the bicycle czar six-day race promoter. There were some interesting conditions of this contract. A clause forbade Jimmy to marry for six years or give up a $10,000 bonus. A little over a year later Jimmy was married.
The cycling ability that Jimmy showed as an amateur quickly spread to the 6-day whirl. Partnered with another rookie 6-day racer Franz Duelberg from Germany this duo won six-day races in Detroit and Chicago in November 1928.
Jimmy was extremely popular at the six-day races in New York and Chicago. He raced in 19 six-day races in both Chicago and New York. Jimmy also raced 11 six-day races in Canada (Montreal, Toronto) and in the European six-day races, 7 six-day races (London, Rotterdam, Paris, Saint Etienne and Antwerp).
The six-day racing career of Jimmy Walthour also included five triple six-day formats. Walthour was very successful in this style of six-day race getting four podium placing in the five triple six-day races he competed in: 1st place in Toronto 1934 and Pittsburgh 1935, 3rd place in Cleveland and Minneapolis in 1934.
In the Historical Overall Classification of the 6-Day Racers (by Jacq van Reijendam, 2007), Jimmy Walthour is ranked as the top USA racer in 44th place with 146 points (first place=5 points, second place=3 points, third place=2 points and fourth place=1 point).
Just behind Jimmy Walthour in 45th place with 145 points is his long-time partner Alfred Crossley from New Bedford Massachusetts. Jimmy and Al Crossley were partners in 40 six-day races over 7 years (1934-1940), these two racers were a class act. They raced with red, white and blue satin jerseys with stars and stripes. Jimmy had blonde hair, was 5' 6" tall and 150 pounds and Crossley had dark hair, was nicknamed 'Bing' because he loved to croon and was bit taller and heavier than Jimmy Jr. Both racers were excellent sprinters and had the endurance to hammer in the jams that lasted for hours.
Albert Schelstraete, an 89 year old former Canadian six-day racer and velodrome builder raced against Walthour/Crossley at the November 1940 Chicago six-day race. Schelstraete noted recently that these racers, even as veterans in the game were striking in their presence. Their handsome healthy looks, colourful racing kit, fluid riding style and smooth Madison exchanges captured the admiration of spectators and fellow racers alike.
At present the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame has not inducted Jimmy Walthour into the USBHOF. Certainly this author recognises the contribution this racer made to the cycling history of the USA.
Jimmy Walthour was 73 years old when he passed away January 29, 1983.