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Mayor Sarno and Councilor Click-Bruce Join with Williams Family for Unveiling of Honorary Street Sign in Honor of George ‘Big Will’ Williams

|   Community News

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce joined with the Williams Family for a special ceremony to honor the legacy and memory of the late George ‘Bill Will’ Williams with the unveiling of an honorary street sign outside the iconic Dunbar Community Center where legends were made. Williams, a champion of youth sports for so many, passed away in 2009.

State Representative Bud Williams, City Council President Jesse Lederman and Councilors Malo Brown, Justin Hurst, Tim Allen and Kateri Walsh, Police Commissioner Robert Cee Jackson, Desi Jackson on behalf of School Committeewoman Barbara Gresham and the Old Hill Neighborhood Council, Bernard McClusky, Pastor Dr. Atu White, Jay Griffin, and other officials, family and friends were also in attendance.  

Councilor Click-Bruce had reached out to Mayor Sarno to work with his administration to support and honor the tremendous work and legacy ‘Big Will’ had upon our community.  Mayor Sarno, without hesitation, fully supported this endeavor.  Councilor Click-Bruce sponsored a petition before the City Council for consideration with the Mayor’s support.

“It is truly an honor to have this street renaming of my former coach and mentor ‘Big Will’.  He taught all of us about being a well-rounded individual and kept us on the straight and narrow.  I will always pay homage to him and truly grateful to my parents for bringing me to The Dunbar,” said Councilor Bruce-Click.

Mayor Sarno states, “I was more than happy to work with my former aide, now City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce, aka ‘Coach’, on this most deserved honor for the legendary Coach George ‘Big Will’ Williams.  I played a few hoop games in ‘Death Valley’ the old Dunbar Community Center and I’ll tell you what, you were down 10-points before the game ever started.  Coach Big Will taught and mentored many young ball players not only on the court, but just as importantly off the court too.  You are sorely missed, but your legacy lives on through such individuals as Coach Lavar Click-Bruce, with your ‘tough love’ life lessons.”

“George ‘Big Will’ Williams was a legend in the community, especially at our Dunbar Community Center.  He played a vital role for thousands of kids and helping them not only in youth sports but growing up too,” Mayor Sarno continued.  “He never looked for accolades but was always there to provide our youths with an opportunity through sports.  He is dearly missed.  My administration fully supports City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce’s petition to honor ‘Big Wills’ legacy with this honorary street naming on Oak Street.  Lavar, a youth coach himself, knows firsthand what a positive impact George had upon our community and the importance of mentoring our youth.”  

During Williams' tenure at Dunbar Community Center in the 1980s, the facility embellished its reputation for providing youths with opportunity through sports. Later, he sponsored many other basketball teams under different names, but one name will always be iconic in the City of Springfield “Big Will Express.”

Williams died at age 75 in 2009, but his memory lives on with Dunbar alumni that included former NBA stars Travis Best and Vinny Del Negro, University of Connecticut star Kevin Freeman, former University of Massachusetts player and current coach Derek Kellogg and many more.  Click-Bruce, a former player, spearheaded renaming of the gym at the Dunbar Community Center in 2015.  The court was home to fiercely contested games that made Dunbar a litmus test for any aspiring basketball player. It has been cited in books about America's urban basketball culture, bringing word-of-mouth plaudits to a greater audience.  The court where "Big Will's" teams played was a cramped facility known more for its history and soul than modern amenities. It has been replaced by a more conventional regulation facility that will carry Williams' name as a link to a glorious past.

In Williams' day, the building was known simply as Dunbar Community Center or more commonly, "the Dunbar.'' It represented excellence and community attachment not just within Springfield, but to the larger basketball world.

“Big Will” also earned a reputation as trusted mentor who championed personal discipline, accountability, confidence, academic achievement, and racial understanding.  Below are some highlights of his everlasting legacy.

  • 20-year veteran of the United State Air Force
  • 21 Years as Athletic Director of the Dunbar Community Center
  • 1974 “Bill Will Express Athletic Club” Founded
  • 1986 Selected Harambee “Man of the year”
  • 1991 Appeared in Sports Illustrated Magazine among the legends, celebrating 100 years of Basketball
  • 1992 Listed in the world’s sports almanac as one of the top ten athletic directors in the world
  • 1993 First Black person to win the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA
  • 2001 Received certificate of appreciation for outstanding community service from President George W. Bush
  • Helped generations of youth use sports as a vehicle to secure college scholarships.
Page last updated:  Tuesday, March 1, 2022 01:32 pm