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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SMITH, WILLIAM T. (WEE WILLIE) - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SMITH, WILLIAM T. (WEE WILLIE) (22 Apr. 1911 - 14 Mar. 1992) outstanding professional basketball player in the 1930s and member of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, was born in Montgomery, Ala., the son of Isaac and Mary Wheeler Smith. His family moved to Cleveland, and as a youth, he learned to play basketball at HIRAM HOUSE. Smith, big for his age, played on adult amateur teams at night while attending EAST TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL, joining the Slaughter Bros. Funeral Home basketball team, one of the best Class A teams in the city. While playing for Slaughter Bros in 1931, he caught the eye of Robert Douglas, owner of the New York Rennaissance, a successful all-black professional team, and the 6-ft.-5" "Wee Willie" Smith joined the team in 1932. The "Rens" took on all comers, playing one-night stands, and from 1932-36 Smith and his 6 teamates were considered the best team in the world, compiling a record of 473-49. In 1963 the entire team was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith was a regular with the Renaissance until WORLD WAR II when he returned to Cleveland permanently, working for the Cleveland Transit System during the week and playing with the Rens and other teams on weekends. After the war he became a custodian for the Cleveland Public School System and also operated the Renaissance Beverage Store at Cedar Ave. & E. 79th St. In 1977 he was elected to the Harlem Hall of Fame and the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.

Smith married Estelle Taylor 7 Aug. 1937 and they had 3 children, June Stallworth, Faith Foster, and a son, James Taylor Smith. Smith was a resident of Cleveland Heights.

Last Modified: 10 Jul 1997 05:11:42 PM

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