The original Hells Angel, Ralph Hubert Barger better known as Sonny Barger has died.
He was a founding member of the Oakland, California, chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in 1957.
Barger was born in Modesto, California but his mother abandoned the family when he was four months old, leaving him and his older sister Shirley to be raised by their grandmother and alcoholic father.
Barger dropped out of school in the tenth grade and enlisted in the U.S. Army aged sixteen in 1955.
However, he was given an honorable discharge fourteen months later when it was discovered that he had forged his birth certificate in order to be able to join.
Barger joined his first motorcycle club, the Oakland Panthers, in 1956 and after that club disbanded, he started riding with another group of bikers, one of whom, Don “Boots” Reeves, wore a patch – a small skull wearing an aviator cap set within a set of wings – that belonged to a defunct motorcycle club in North Sacramento.
Founding their own club named the Hells Angels on April 1, 1957, each member wore the patch, later known as the Hells Angels’ “Death’s Head” logo, after having duplicates made at a trophy store in Hayward.
Barger and the Oakland Hells Angels were unaware at the time that there were several other, loosely affiliated, clubs using the same name throughout California.
With Barger as president, the Oakland Hells Angels travelled to southern California and amalgamated with the other Hells Angels chapters, dividing territory and forming club bylaws.
Barger died on June 29, 2022, aged 83, after a battle with liver cancer.