Sonny Barger: who was Hells Angels founder and Sons of Anarchy star who has died, what is the motorcycle club?
The American biker, author and actor, who was born Ralph Hubert Barger, died surrounded by his loved ones
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The founding member of worldwide outlaw motorcycle club Hells Angels Sonny Barger has died at the age of 83.
Barger’s death was announced on social media and included a goodbye message which had been written by Barger himself prior to his death.
So, who exactly was Barger, what was the cause of his death, and what did he say in his farewell message?
Here’s what you need to know.
What was Sonny Barger’s cause of death?
In the early 1980s, Barger was diagnosed with throat cancer after years of heavy smoking. He needed to have his vocal cords removed as a result and learned to vocalise using the muscles in his oesophagus.
After surviving that health scare, Barger began to publicly advocate against smoking.
He was surrounded by his loved ones, including his wife Zorana.
What did Sonny Barger say in his farewell message?
Barger had written a message prior to his death that he wished to be published after his passing.
That statement was posted at 6.40am (UK time) on Thursday 30 June 2022, which was 11.40pm on Wednesday 29 June in Barger’s hometown of California.
It 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 honour.”
Who was Sonny Barger?
Song Barger, who was born Ralph Hubert Barger, on 8 October 1938.
He joined motorcycle clubs at a young age and is credited with helping build the Hells Angels into an international organisation.
In his autobiography, Barger wrote that the Hells Angels were a small San Francisco club that fizzled before he joined.
He and other bikers picked up the name and started the Oakland Hells Angels, which is now known as the club’s most significant charter.
He went on to become the club’s national president in the late 1950s.
Throughout his life Barger disputed the claim from the authorities that the Hells Angels are a criminal enterprise held together by violence and funded by illegal cash cows.
Barger wrote several books, and appeared on television and in film many times during his life.
He was most well known for his portrayal of Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz in the Tv series Sons of Anarchy between 2010 and 2012.
Did Sonny Barger get in trouble with the law?
Barger was frequently in trouble with the law throughout his life.
His criminal record began in 1963 after he was arrested for possession of Class B illegal drug marijuana.
In 1972, he and three others were acquitted of murdering a Texas drug dealer in Oakland and setting a residence on fire as part of the killing.
A year later, however, he was sentenced to a prison term of ten years-to-life after he was convicted of possession of narcotics for sale and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. He was paroled in 1977 after serving four-and-a-half years of his sentence.
In 1980, after an eight-month trial, he beat racketeering charges in a split verdict that saw nine others convicted.
In 1987, Barger was among 13 Hells Angels members who were arrested on narcotics, weapons, explosives and conspiracy charges during a series of raids carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and California State Police.
This resulted in the seizure of over a hundred weapons, more than $1 million in cash and drugs, and three methamphetamine laboratories.
Barger was convicted of conspiracy the following year and was sentenced to a four year prison term. He was released in 1992 after serving three-and-a-half years of his sentence.
Who are the Hells Angels?
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide outlaw motorcycle club.
Its members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
With a membership between 3,000 and 3,600, and 467 chapters in 59 countries, the HAMC is the largest motorcycle club in the world.
Many police and international intelligence agencies, including the United States Department of Justice and Europol, consider the club an organised crime syndicate but club members have denied this.