This morning, a memorial 10-count will toll in honor of Willie Hall Sr., a man whose impact on the youth in Roswell will resound indefinitely.
The count — the tolling of a bell 10 times — honors a recently deceased boxer. Hall, 83, passed away on Dec. 6, in Albuquerque.
A renowned boxer and longtime Roswell resident, Hall traded in his gloves to coach hundreds of young boys in the community free of charge. Hall trained aspiring boxers in gyms throughout Roswell including the Ava Maria Center, the Roswell Police Department, New Mexico Military Institute and the Roswell Boys & Girls Club. In one session, he would train up to 20 young men at a time.
Born in Bryan, Texas, Hall, an only child, began boxing at the age of nine. He moved to Roswell with his parents at the age of 15. After attending George Washington Carver, a for-blacks-only school on Roswell’s southeast side, he became involved in amateur boxing.
Hall trained and [auth] fought with some of the best boxers in history and even befriended Muhammad Ali, when he was known as Cassius Clay. Hall boxed as a welterweight in the Air Force championships in 1948, and with the Walker Air Force Base team in 1949. He became a quarter finalist in the National Golden Gloves in 1952, after previously winning the 175-pound class in the Roswell regionals that same year.
An inductee into the New Mexico Boxing Hall of Fame, Hall is best known for his years of involvement as a Golden Gloves fighter and trainer.
Raymond Anaya, one of Hall’s trainees, said Hall dedicated his life to the kids on the East Side. “He was our God in a sense … he brought us up. He kept kids out of trouble.” Anaya’s seven brothers all trained under Hall. Anaya won nine state championships with Hall as his coach.
While the focus of his trainings were boxing, Hall’s teachings went beyond the sport. “He taught us about life, character, sportsmanship and brotherhood,” Raymond Baca, who also trained under Hall, said. “He gave us the most important thing in the world; he gave us his time,” Anaya said. Baca described Hall’s death as “a tremendous loss to the community.”
Hall’s family encompassed much more than his six children with wife Ruth. He knew about the lives of each of his boxers. During drives to tournaments he would ask the young men questions about their personal lives. “He was concerned about his fighters. He wasn’t prying. He wanted to know all of his fighters,” Baca said. Hall even had a nickname for each of his fighters. Anaya was named the Bronze Bomber, and Baca was called Cocky Bac.
Many of Hall’s trainees have gone on to share his teachings with others. Anaya and Baca, along with many others, have gone on to coach boxing.
Hall was known statewide, and boxers from all over New Mexico would come to Roswell to train with him.
Roswell resident Diane Taylor, who has worked with youth programs in the community for decades, said, “Willie Hall to me was a man among giants. I have never met anyone that has impacted young people like this man has. He took kids and gave them hope, he gave them a life. He took boys and made men out of them.”
Taylor first met Hall 39 years ago at the Boys & Girls Club. She said she will never forget their first meeting. “He said, ‘I hope you like helping kids and giving kids a chance.’ I replied, ‘Yes of course,’ and he told me, ‘You just don’t say it, you do it,’” Taylor recalled.
Hall grew up in a time before Martin Luther King Jr., or the civil rights movement. “Willie Hall made new history and made sure everyone that came into contact with him was part of his history,” Taylor said.