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Joe and Cleo Williams family


The Joe and Cleo Williams family of Tacoma are the first recipients of the First Family of Sports Award and their story is one of sports, sports and more sports. Truly they are the First Family of Sports.

Let's talk about the parents first. Joe and Cleo married in 1936 and were married 68 years at Cleo's death in July of 2004. They were Tacoma residents since 1950. Joe earned the nickname of Smokey when cooking over a woodstove at a CCC camp during the great depression.

The Williams had seven children, the final two arriving via Korea, and all graduated from Tacoma's Lincoln High School. They also were foster parents to 169 foster children over a 15-year period. Talk about being parents!

In sports, the Williams brothers earned 47 varsity letters in high school and college. Talk about being athletes!

Let's start with "Big Joe". He graduated from Lincoln in 1955 but not before lettering in football, basketball, track and decathlon. At 6-6 and 245, he was the first "big man" in Tacoma high school football. Many considered him the best defensive end ever to play at Lincoln. As a UW freshman he played football and rowed for the Husky crew but he decided to join the Washington State Patrol where he spent his entire career before a recent retirement.

Jerry came next, graduating from high school in 1958. He followed Joe in lettering in every sport at Lincoln and was named a Prep All-America in football as a senior. He decided to become an Iowa Hawkeye and lettered in both football and track in college. Jerry currently owns a real estate office with his wife in Florida.

Dave was next, leaving a legacy at Lincoln when he graduated in 1963. He lettered in the same four sports as his brothers but starred in football where he was recruited by the UW. As a Husky he was so outstanding that he was drafted in the NFL where he became one of the top receivers in the league for St. Louis, Pittsburgh and San Diego. He caught 435 passes in his career for 53 touchdowns but retired because of a knee injury after being the first player drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. Dave currently owns a corporate investment/financial counseling company in Arizona.

That wasn't the end of the Williams at Lincoln high. John graduated from there in 1969 And, guess what, he also lettered in four sports. Yes, the same ones as his older brothers. He went to college at Mission Viejo JC in California before enrolling at Iowa and he lettered in track & field at both. John retired from the Orange County Sheriff 's Dept. and currently is an elected official there

What about sister Susan, Lincoln class of 59? She took care of halftimes at LHS athletic events as a 3-year member of the Marcetta Ki Drill Team. She also made her mark on the Abe rifle team but she doesn't consider that an athletic achievement regardless of what her brothers say.

A First Family in Sports? Indeed the Williams Family qualifies and then some!