Big Willie

Updated: Feb 11

Racing is for everyone. Big Willie was a 6-foot-6, 300 pounds of solid muscle black man from New Orleans and was a Special Forces soldier in the Vietnam War. He came to Los Angeles to escape the prevalent racisms in the South like many African Americans before him, but he found LA to have its own ugliness and divisions.

He wanted to change that.

Robinson was working at a body shop in 1962 when he bought his a ’57 Olds and began his street racing career. With some help from the Los Angeles Police Department, Willie founded the Brotherhood of Street Racers, starting in the late 1960s, he wanted men and women with a love of machine and speed to have a place to race and bring peace to a broken L.A.

His main goal was to make street racing safer. Big Willie had swagger and charm that was made just for Hollywood. He would act on the side and befriended fellow gear head Paul Newman. Big Willie was even offered the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars! “Star Wars” Darth Vader even visited Brotherhood Raceway Park at the height of the first movie.

In the mid 70s, Willie ran a drag strip on an island in the Port of Los Angeles. His vision of unity flourished there. The drag strip was on Terminal Island and it would open and close its gates often over the next two decades. Street racers and law enforcement officials talked about that any give night you could find Crips and Bloods forging a peace all to race at the Brotherhood Raceway. “You could be the Ku Klux Klan, you could be the Aryan Nation, you could be the Crips, you could be the Bloods — when you come around Willie, all that stops,” said Brotherhood member Kennith Russell.

‘We did something that had never been done before: We used racing — racing! — to stop killings.’ ~Big Willie Robinson Willie Andrew Robinson III passed away at the age of 69. He was an amazing man who just wanted to bring people together through our love of speed and machines.

~Blanton Payne


LA times


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