Willie Ray Smith
Awards Banquet

Celebrating 32 Years

Our 32nd Annual Willie Ray Smith Awards Banquet will be held on March 3rd at 4 PM. If you are interested in being a sponsor, please email us!

Honoring High
School Athletes

The Beaumont Founders Lions Club has hosted an awards banquet for the past 32 years in which we recognize the top high school football players from Southeast Texas. 

The Willie Ray Smith Awards Banquet has become the signature event for these high school athletes. We have been honored to have great speakers like coaches R.C. Slocum of Texas A&M, Spike Dykes of Texas Tech, and John Mackovic of the University of Texas. Speakers have also included top athletes like NFL stars Herschel Walker, Matt Barr, Frank Middleton and Jerry LeVias. We have been also blessed to have Olympian Matt Ghaffari, Damon West and our own Past International Director Marshall Cooper share their positive motivational messages with the attendees. 

The event recognizes the outstanding offense and defense player’s from each of the thirty high schools from around Southeast Texas that participate, as nominated by their coaches. Each school is given a table for eight at the banquet. Our media sponsor, KFDM TV, has given coverage to all the athletes nominated. We then hold a press conference where all media is invited to recognize the Nominees and announce the Finalists, which include the top four offensive and defensive players. The Finalists and winners are chosen by the sports media in Southeast Texas. The media votes for the winners and are submitted to an accounting firm. The results are not revealed to us until the evening of the banquet. These athletes are seated at the head table and special highlight videos of these players are shown during the banquet. We are proud that the award has been won by athletes from 17 different schools representing all levels of football classification. We produce a professional souvenir program for the event which highlights the history of the award, past winners, all nominees, our speaker, Lions Club activities, and our sponsors. The people who make it all possible for us to hold this event and keep it at the high level that it was established are the sponsors

Funds from the Willie Ray Smith Awards Banquet go to the charities of the Beaumont Founders Lions Club. These include the Lions Eye Bank of Texas, Lamar Scholarships, Eye Glasses Program, Leader Dog For The Blind Program, Texas Lions Childrens Camp in Kerrville, Lions Club International Foundation, I Have A Dream Program, Disaster Relief and Campaign Sightfirst I & II, a program to eliminate preventable blindness.

In 1992, the employees of Star Graphics originated the idea for an awards ceremony that would honor the best offensive and defensive high school football players in Southeast Texas, and pay tribute to Coach Willie Ray Smith, Sr., a long-time high school coaching legend in Southeast Texas. A number of athletes who played for Coach Smith went on to NFL careers, including his sons, Bubba and Tody Smith.

The First Annual Willie Ray Smith, Sr. Awards Banquet was held in 1993. In 1994, the Beaumont Founders Lions Club became host for what has become an annual and anticipated event in Southeast Texas. All proceeds received from the Awards Banquet are used to support Lions Club charities.

The 1992 Willie Ray Smith, Sr. Awards Banquet featured Coach R.C. Slocum of Texas A & M University as the Special Guest Speaker with special guest appearances by Bob Lilly and “Bullet” Bob Hayes of the Dallas Cowboys. Also in attendance were Coach Willie Ray Smith’s widow, Georgia and their sons Tody Smith, Bubba Smith and Willie Ray Smith, Jr. Every year the event has featured and highlighted many notable speakers. Among those were, Coaches Spike Dykes, Dan Hooks, Todd Dodge, Guy Morriss and Ray Woodard.

Outstanding athletes such as Herschel Walker, Matt Ghaffari, Matt Bahr, Frank Middleton, Gus Holliman and Jerry LeVias have also spoken. Other distinguished speakers throughout the years have included Judge Jim Farris, Past International Director Lion Marshall Cooper and our own Greg Kerr who conducted the original interview with Coach Smith that gets viewed each year at the banquet. We were also pleased to have Willie Ray Smith’s granddaughter, Jamila Smith-Loud as our speaker at one event.

Coach Willie Ray Smith, Sr.

April 11, 1911 – January 3, 1992

In 1935, Willie Ray Smith, Sr., graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, and attended Prairie View A & M University where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture in 1940. In 1954, he received a Master of Science Degree from Prairie View University.

He began his coaching career in 1942 at Dunbar High School in Lufkin, Texas. After coaching for four years, “Coach” Smith went to Orange where he coached until 1957. In 1957, he began an eighteen-year coaching career at Charlton-Pollard High School in Beaumont.

When Charlton-Pollard merged with Beaumont High School in 1975, Coach Smith closed out his coaching career and became liaison coordinator for the Beaumont- Charlton-Pollard and French High Schools. He retired in 1976.

Coach Smith won 235 games in his career and did it with tough discipline. He took over ill-equipped programs at Lufkin, Orange-Wallace, and Charlton-Pollard, producing consistent winners. His sons, Tody and Bubba, are among more than 20 players he sent on to pro football. We thank Coach Smith for being instrumental in establishing Beaumont as “The Football Capital of the United States.”

2023 Willie Ray Smith Banquet Sponsors

Thank you to our sponsors!

If you are interested in being a sponsor for next years banquet please email us!