Charlie Neal overcomes odds for a lifetime as a concept bike builder
The story of Charlie Neal, better know as Charlie Brown to car show fans is one one overcoming the odds, living with discrimination, and being gracious to one and all. Charlie is a concept bike builder. They don’t look like this on the showroom. He developed a love for that profession as a child.
Charlie (Brown) Neal, Concept Bike Builder, “I went to a car show. Saw the bikes in the show. Saw the cars, and I decided then I wanted to become one of those guys who build bikes and cars.”
Charlie has won more awards than you can count in the last 50 years. At the World of Wheels show, his bikes and trikes always come away with an award.
But Charlie is African American and in 1968, getting to be an exhibitor for him was not easy. Charlie’s benefactor was Chattanoogan Carter Hamilton, who saw him and his bike trying to get into the 1968 show.
Charlie, “So he went and talked to the promoter who was Steve Champion and uh, he come back and Carter said I got you in. Well, let me know you where you got to go. So I went with him, got over there and showed me where I was. I was at the bottom of the steps, come from upstairs to downstairs right in front of the bathroom. I kind of like frowned, but at the same time I’m thinking I’m in this show.”
Despite the obvious handicap, Charlie was in for a surprise.
Charlie, “They called off second place and it wasn’t me and I said they didn’t even come look at my bike but, they called off first place and said first place goes to a 750 Honda at the bottom of the steps, Charles, Charlie Neal. Hotdog it, that’s me!”
He’s been competing ever since despite his retirement at age 71. Charlie came away with a personal philosophy he learned from the late Carter Hamilton.
Charlie, “Even though things were difficult back then with race, people, this was a cat that believed that we could all love each other and get along so it means a lot to me.”