Willie Smith was born in Yuma, Arizona, where he was raised as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He was a part of the technical department as a teenager at the Seventh Day Adventist General Conference.
Smith moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles in 1963. In 1964, while working as a motion picture projectionist, and a member of the national projectionist union, he met Troy Perry. Rev. Perry has shared that Willie Smith was the first openly gay person he met in the Los Angeles area. He was also the first person who was not afraid to talk to Rev. Perry about religion. They became friends and roommates, and it was in their home in 1968 that Metropolitan Community Church was born.
Rev. Smith conducted music at the first service where he was backed by recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the congregation singing.
Willie Smith was Ordained as Clergy in 1972 and served as Minister of Music of the Mother Church, MCC-Los Angeles, for 13 years. He became pastor of All Saints Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood, California, where he served for three years, until 1985. While he was pastor, the congregation moved from West Hollywood to the Silverlake area of Los Angeles and changed its name to MCC-Silverlake.
In 1998 Willie moved to Colorado with his partner, Dennis, where he owned and managed movie theaters. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 2003 as he was driving through parts of Colorado that he loved and was pronounced dead at the scene. His funeral was held at Metropolitan Community Church-Los Angeles before grieving friends, including Rev. Troy Perry. Of all of the membership of Metropolitan Community Church, Willie was one of the first persons to demonstrate with Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the denomination, and was part of the first gay pride parade in the world in Hollywood in 1970.
(This bio statement prepared by Rev. Troy Perry and Frank Zerilli.)
Biography Date: July, 2010
MCC | Perry, Troy | Artist/musician/poet
“Rev. Willie Smith | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed January 30, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/willie-smith.