Fritz Williams

Great American Rail-Trail

Arts, Entertainment & Sports Black History

While playing for West Virginia University, Fritz Williams dribbles down the court in a game against GWU.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

In a town known for steel, Ron “Fritz” Williams (1944–2004) would put Weirton, West Virginia, on the map for basketball.

Born in 1944, Fritz rose to basketball fame while wearing a Red Riders—the mascot for Weir High School—jersey. During his high school career, Williams earned 11 varsity letters in basketball, football and track. He led the basketball team to three state championship games, an unbeaten regular season in 1962 and a state championship title in 1963. [1] As a junior, he averaged 30.1 points per game, and as a senior, 30.9. Williams finished his high-school basketball career with a handful of accolades: He was the first African American player named to First-Team All-West Virginia for basketball, the fourth person named to First-Team All-State three times and a three-year All-OVAC (Ohio Valley Athletic Conference). As a senior, he was named to the All-American team. To this day, Williams holds school records for the most points scored by a player in a game (55), as well as the all-time career record of 2,203 points.

While he was best known for basketball, Williams’ athletic achievements extended to other sports. During his four years of high school, he played for the Weir High football team, which won the state championship in 1961. In 1963, Williams was named to the All-West Virginia football team. In 1964, he also won the West Virginia Region 1 championship for the 100-, 220- and 440-yard sprints for track and field!

Unsurprisingly, having such an accomplished career at such a young age, Williams was recruited by major college basketball programs. After graduating from Weir High in 1964, however, Williams chose to stay in his home state and attend West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown. Williams, along with new teammates Ed Harvard, Carl Head, Norman Holmes and Jim Lewis—were the first African American basketball players at WVU. [2] Much like in high school, Williams quickly began accumulating accolades. Among his many records and statistics, he was the 10th all-time scorer for career points (1,687 points) and the fifth all-time scorer for 20 or more points in a game (46 times). He was also an All-American team selection. [3]

After his final season, Williams was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, but he declined. Shortly thereafter, he entered the NBA Draft and was selected as the ninth overall pick by the San Francisco Warriors in the first round. [4] Despite not having played football in four years, Williams was also selected in the 14th round of the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and offered a three-year, guaranteed contract. [5] He declined the offer and signed to play guard for the Warriors, making him the first and only Weir High graduate to play in the NBA. After five seasons with the Warriors, Williams was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he played for two seasons before joining the Los Angeles Lakers for his final season in 1976. [6]

Following his retirement from the NBA, Williams became an assistant basketball coach at various institutions, including UC-Berkeley, and assisted WVU in recruiting Black athletes to their basketball program. [7] Decades after he left the gym as a player, Williams continued to earn honors. He was inducted into multiple Hall of Fames—including the West Virginia University Hall of Fame in 1993—and a road close to his childhood home was renamed “Ron ‘Fritz’ William Boulevard.” [8]

On April 8, 2004, Williams died of a heart attack at the age of 59. [9] Twelve years after his death, on Dec. 21, 2016, Weir High honored Williams by naming the floor inside their fieldhouse the Ron “Fritz” William Court. [10]

“His accomplishments from high school to the NBA are amazing and untouched in our area. We toss words like legendary around too much in today’s society. Fritz’s accomplishments make this honor worthwhile to both our school and community,” said Granato, the head boys’ basketball coach. [11]

In 2017, Williams was named an inaugural member of WVU’s Mountaineer Legends Society—the second-highest honor a WVU athlete can receive. [12]




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