We reported yesterday that “Big Willie” Robinson, the massive mountain of a man and huge force behind the street legal drag racing scene in the Los Angeles area was in poor health. Word has come to us that Robinson passed away at 5AM on Saturday. He was the founder of the International Brotherhood of Street Racers, worked tirelessly at and for Brotherhood Raceway on Terminal Island in LA, and believed with all of his being that drag racing could be a force to unite the community, quell racial tensions, and keep kids off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. His message was heard by many and followed by many more. There are worldwide chapters of the International Brotherhood of Street Racers now and all of this is because of Robinson’s unyielding devotion to his message, his cause, and his beliefs. The 6’6″ man was as imposing physical presence, but was a truly gentle giant who was devoted to his wife Tomiko and heart broken by her passing in 2007.
Robinson served in Vietnam with the US Army and formed the International Brotherhood of Street Racers after the infamous Watts riots of 1965 in order to try and direct the collective energy of hot rodders and drag racers to positive activities rather than the drugs, violence, and anger that pervaded the greater Los Angeles area during that tumultuous time. He worked for decades to get a drag strip that could be operated with the street racer/low buck guy in mind and saw his dream come to fruition in the form of Brotherhood Raceway on Terminal Island near Los Angeles. The track was short on amenities, niceties, and flash, but it was a true melting pot of the car culture and a place that lots of people drag raced at with minimal hassle and off of the city streets. It can be argued that the import drag racing scene which exploded in the 1990s was born there in the decades leading up to it’s mainstream popularity. Robinson was constantly working and fighting to keep the track open but ultimately the city stopped the operation of Brotherhood Racewaya number of years ago. Every now and again, rumors jump up that the track may reopen but they have not come to fruition at this point.
“Big Willie” Robinson did a lot over the decades that he served as the leader of the Brotherhood and we hope that his message and mission are carried on as he would have wanted.
Another sad day for our sport/hobby/passion.