The drag racing community has lost one of it's largest proponents.
It's a little bit of a pun since Big Willie earned his nickname via his imposing 6ft, 6-inch frame and a presence just as big, but Big was also always one of the most outspoken purveyors of the 'take it to the track' system of solving disputes.
Jalopnik put together an excellent brief biography of the man and his influence in the drag racing community, and the oft under appreciated, but equally important, work that he did to ease racial tension and curb gang violence.
Oh, you didn't know that? It's a fact; one of the founding tenets of The National And International Brotherhood Of Street Racers was to end gang violence and racial unrest through drag racing. Rather than violence, together with his wife Tomiko, Big Willie promoted 'Peace through racing.'
The whole concept basically revolved around bringing people together via a common interest or passion to create common ground. It's essentially the same premise any such peace organization is founded on; Big Willie was just the only speaking directly to hot rodders and racers. He helped found the Brotherhood Raceway Park on Terminal Island down in the Los Angeles harbor area, which was known as neutral territory amongst the local gangs and racers.
And he wasn't afraid to join in; both Big and Tomiko had his and hers Daytona Chargers that they ran. One of Big's cars turned up on eBay a couple years back and sold for 250k.
Matter of fact, we're fairly sure it was the same car once featured featured in a PHR article Big and the Brotherhood. Click on the embedded photos for larger versions.