The Deacons of Deadwood MC is a motorcycle club founded in 2002 by 13 businessmen and professionals in Houston. We are a 501(c)(3) charity. Our Members include lawyers, businessmen, politicians and other prominent members of their communities. Two of our Members own several Harley-Davidson dealerships. Most of our Members are located in Houston, Texas, but we also have Members in other parts of Texas, several States and a couple of foreign countries. Our mission is to be the most respected motorcycle club in Houston by promoting safe and fun motorcycle riding while assisting charities benefiting children. We have been successful in that mission.
The spark that led to the birth of the Deacons of Deadwood came in 2001 after Stelter’s bar in downtown Houston closed. Stelter’s was in the building that housed Houston’s original Harley-Davidson dealership, which was owned by Bubba Stelter’s granfather. Hundreds of bikers would go there on Thursday nights, drink some beer, listen to loud bands and then ride to other parts of the city. The future founders of the Deacons of Deadwood would meet at a motorcycle shop owned by David Cook before riding to Stelter’s. David was a great organizer, and he would put together a trip each year to stay in Deadwood, South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Bubba Stelter closed the restaurant, sold the property and moved to Las Vegas. Nobody took up the slack, and all of a sudden, Houston’s bikers did not have anywhere to go on Thursday nights.
Thursday night riding in Houston became grim. A group of us started talking about an informal get-together every Thursday night to ride. There was no thought of forming an organized club.
David Cook died in 2001. Soon afterwards, his son Ricky and Sam Allen thought about starting a motorcycle club. It turned out there was great interest, and the Deacons of Deadwood Motorcycle Club was organized as a Texas not for profit corporation on April 22, 2002.
Almost from the founding of the Deacons of Deadwood Motorcycle Club, Members would ask “What are we, a motorcycle club or a charity?” The original idea was really a spoof on motorcycle clubs, and we didn’t take any of it very seriously. The tongue in cheek nature of the Deacons is reflected in our name and our patches.
David Cook gave us our name. During one of our trips to Sturgis, a group of David’s friends were walking up the street in Deadwood, and David remarked that there were so many of us there that we should be called the Deacons of Deadwood. The remark was remembered, and we had our name.
Our main patch is a Dead Man’s Hand, which is the poker hand Wild Bill Hikock was holding when he was killed by Jack McCall in Deadwood. The hand is black aces, black eights and the nine of diamonds. Ricky came up with the skeleton fingers holding the hand. Sam thought that would be too cartoonish, but Ricky won the day, and as is often the case he was right.
As most bikers know, clubs that wear 1% er patches consider themselves outlaw bikers who are in the top 1% of the rough biker element. The Deacons are 44% ers. Each 4 stands for “D”, which is the fourth letter in the alphabet (thus, 44 = Deacons of Deadwood), and the 44% means we are not quite halfway as rough as the 1%ers. Ricky thought we should be .5% ers. He figured the outlaw clubs wouldn’t be able to figure out whether that was more or less than 1%!
The original purpose of the Club was to organize informal rides on a frequent basis. Having a charity ball was sort of in the back of our minds, but there were no definite plans, and it certainly was not a priority. The idea was to have fun.
The Club grew quickly. We doubled in size within a couple of months. Many of the new Members were friends from the original group that used to ride with David Cook. Other new Members were friends of friends, and the founders didn’t know some of those guys very well or at all. We relied on the good judgment of our existing Members to nominate quality new Members. We still pretty much operate that way.
We decided to put on a charity ball in the fall of 2002. It was hard work, but we raised over $20,000 for Make-a-Wish. Although the fundraising was a success, it nearly tore the Club apart. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians, and there was a substantial constituency that didn’t want to do any charity work at all. As one of our founders put it: “This isn’t fun.”
The Club continued to grow quickly. It became evident that many of the new Members were joining for a variety of different, and not necessarily compatible, reasons. Many of the new Members had been to our first charity ball, and joined primarily because they wanted to be a part of a motorcycle club that could do charitable work on a big scale. Others joined primarily because they wanted to ride motorcycles.
The Club has gone through some distinct periods of growth. Early on, we were interested in critical mass. New Members were admitted that were not vetted adequately. We wound up with a set of incompatible personalities. There was a group that joined because of the riding. There was another group that joined to ride, but also to help in our charitable efforts. There were others who just complained (aka the Sniveling Seven; more about them later). Things were not working well.
Things came to a head when two Members basically attempted a coup d’état to take over management of the Club. They were unsuccessful, and they wound up getting booted out of the Deacons of Deadwood. We had to change our bylaws to add procedures to kick somebody out. We had been so naive that it never occurred that we ever would have to give anyone the heave-ho.
Anyway, we booted two Members, and two others resigned in protest. But that procedure, hard as it was, brought a breath of fresh air to the Club. Our meetings and rides became better attended, and everyone had a more fun. Membership roles increased and we attracted a better quality of Member. Also, our fundraising activities were more successful, and the Deacons of Deadwood started to become known as a serious charitable donor around Houston.
Although things were going well, there still was some discontent among some Members (remember the Sniveling Seven?). There was a group that wanted to be in a more traditional “MC”, with a three piece patch and closer ties to some of the more hard-core motorcycle clubs around Houston. They proposed to start their own club with its own patch, but also wanted to remain as Deacons and wear our patch.
This did not go over well with the Deacons’ Membership. Although the guys who wanted to form their own club were snivelers, they were not trouble makers like the Members who were kicked out. It was clear they were dissatisfied, and it was clear that no compromise was possible, so they left to form their own club, which still is active in the South Houston area. Many of their members remain our friends. One of them dropped out of the new club, and in a process that took over a year, rejoined the Deacons.
The departure of those members ushered in a sort of golden age of the Deacons of Deadwood. Finally, we had a Membership with common goals. Our roster increased from around 45 Members to nearly 100, and we are getting stronger. Our average fundraising has increased from an average of $75,000 a year to over $200,000 a year. Plus, we have never had more rides or more fun.
Thus the question: Are we a motorcycle club or a charity?
Well, we are both. Since 2002, we have raised over $1,000,000 for children’s charities. That is more than was raised by all of the other Houston motorcycle clubs combined. Even our Members who would rather we focus more on riding are proud of our charitable work. Lots of motorcycle clubs donate to charities, but no club does it the way we do, and our annual Ball distinguishes us from all other motorcycle clubs in Houston. We simply have a style no other motorcycle club can match that allows us to attract Members who otherwise would never consider joining a motorcycle club.
This is a diverse Club. We have politicians, lawyers, prosecutors and bail bondsmen; entrepreneurs, businessmen, salesmen, oilmen and self-made men; cell phone tower builders and engineers; car dealers, motorcycle dealers, motorcycle mechanics and commercial pilots; computer geeks, college professors and artists; financial guys, construction guys, restaurant guys, night club guys, unemployed guys and retired guys. We even have an opera guy and a Hip Hop guy.
All of these people are different in personality and background, but our Club has room for all them.