April 1, 1933 ~ May 18, 2019
Roy Lee Smith, Sr., also known as Charley “Tombstone” Smith, was born April 1st, 1933 in Waco, Texas to Elva Ray Smith. He had 4 siblings - Charles, Thomas, Evelyn, and Kay. Growing up, Roy’s siblings used to tease him for being born on April Fools’ Day. They would tell him “mother thought you were a girl, then we told her ‘April Fool!’” Roy loved to hunt and fish, and he was great at both. He was an excellent shot and would always bring something back from the hunt; be it rabbit, squirrel, or duck.
As a teenager, Roy dreamed of travelling and seeing the world like his older brother Charles, who was in the Air Force. But since Roy was only 16 at the time, he was not able to join the military without his mother’s consent - which he knew she would not give. So, he decided to “borrow” his brother Charles’s birth certificate and high school diploma and use these documents to enlist in the Navy in 1950 as Charles Ray Smith.
Shortly after joining the Navy, the Korean War broke out. Roy served on the USS Helena, where he provided fire support to U. S. ground troops by firing 8 inch/55 caliber guns at enemy forces ashore on the Korean Peninsula. After his ship went to Japan for an overhaul, Roy began boxing as an amateur to past the time. He and his commanding officer quickly realized that he had a talent for this sport. So, for the rest of his naval service, he was reassigned to represent his ship, and his country, in the boxing ring. After winning several regional championships and inter-service bouts (mostly by knockout), he became famous among amateur boxing fans around the world and was aptly given the nickname “Charley ‘Tombstone’ Smith”.
Immediately after leaving the Navy in 1954, Roy became a professional boxer and began fighting in Los Angeles. In addition to being a boxer he was also a professional barber, and would cut hair between bouts to make ends meet. In his hay day, he was ranked among the Top 10 best boxers in the world at his weight class! On August 20, 1958, Roy fought the World Welterweight Champion, Virgil Atkins, and nearly pulled off a stunning upset! That video of their classic fight is forever enshrined in the Las Vegas Boxing Hall Of Fame! During his boxing career, Roy compiled an impressive record of 45 wins and 27 losses, with 23 of his wins coming by knockout!
Towards the latter part of Roy’s boxing career, he met and married Christine Purdy. The couple had 3 children together: Leo, Roy, Jr., and Cecil. They raised 4 kids in all, including Donald, the eldest of Christine’s children. After Roy’s boxing career ended, he worked as a longshoreman in Long Beach, California.
Roy is survived by his wife Christine Smith; his brother Charles Ray Smith; his son Roy Lee Smith, Jr.; his stepson Donald Franklin; his grandchildren Cecilia Smith, Jamaal Smith, Rashid Smith, and Elias Smith; his great-granddaughter Ellie Mae Smith; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.
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