At 4pm on March 15, 2018, the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund dedicated the headstone of Billy Smiley, Sr. in the Legends section of the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Greenville, MS. Smiley’s family paid for the memorial. Woodrow Wilkins, a Greenville journalist and author, who knew Smiley and followed his music, served as host of the dedication. Also present at the dedication were Smiley’s sons, local musicians, including Rob Mortimer, and other community members who wanted to pay tribute to the Greenville musician.
Smiley loved to put on shows for his audiences, and he performed for about a decade with various bands, including The Billy Smiley Band. He also taught music in the Greenville Public School District and was the band director at Greenville High School until 2013.
After the graveside headstone dedication, everyone was invited to the Walnut Street Blues Bar, 128 S Walnut St., where Smiley’s name was added to the Greenville Blues Walk. “That’s the sidewalk around Walnut Street,” said Wilkins. “They get their name and likeness added. It’s modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame but for local artists.” Alan Orlicek, who carves the memorial stones for the Blues Walk, was also on hand to display Smiley’s stone and install it in the sidewalk.
Billy Smiley succumbed to injuries sustained in a late night stabbing in February 2017. He was 59 years of age. Hours before the stabbing, several local musicians, including Smiley, Leonard Stevenson Jr., Mortimer and John Horton, were jamming at Walnut Street Blues Bar with a German blues band who was in town filming a German blues documentary. Stevenson was later charged with two counts of capital murder in the stabbing deaths of Smiley, 59, and Ronnie Tubbs, 59. All three were involved, at one time or another, in Smiley & The Young Guns.
Smiley was survived by his sons, Billy Frank Smiley Jr., of Greenville, Dexter Lee Smiley, of Jackson, Billy Frank Lee Smiley, of Augusta, Georgia, and Elic Bankhead, of Madison, Wisconsin; his daughters, Dorian Weatherspoon, of Dallas, and Ronena Turner, of Oaklawn, Illinois; his brothers, James Alvin Smiley and Dornell Smiley, both of Greenville, and Robert Earl Smiley, of Shelby; his sisters, Lucy Solomon, of Milwaukee, and Barbara Wright, of Greenville; and five grandchildren.