July 19, 2016 is a day that will forever be in the hearts of Redskins fans. The fanbase lost one of the best, most kind-hearted and selfless individuals who has ever represented the Burgundy and Gold. Whether he was dressed in full regalia as “Chief Zee” or in regular old jeans and a t-shirt, Zema Williams was the same wonderful man at all times. He had a natural love for people, especially Washington Redskins fans. I can recall times I’d see Chief Zee in the streets and people who recognized him asked to take pictures. No matter how many requests there were, he never seemed to mind one bit. In fact, I believe it’s what gave him the fuel needed over the years to do what he loved most – to represent the Washington Redskins team and its fanbase. Hail to the Chief! He generously lent his celebrity status to raise awareness and funds for various charitable organizations such as the House of Ruth DC (transitional housing for battered and abused women and children), Children’s Hospital and Help The Homeless (HTH). Chief Zee also made appearances at local schools. He could always be counted on to help worthy causes.
I’ve attended many Redskins events since we lost Chief Zee and it just doesn’t feel the same without him. By his exemplary conduct, Chief Zee set the ultimate example for all of us Redskins fans to follow. He loved everyone. Come game time, Chief Zee’s primary concern was how loud you could yell “Hail the Redskins!” He cheered for the Redskins for 40 years with a smile on his face and love in his heart, and that only scratches the surface of the man Chief Zee was.
Chief Zee was born Zema Williams on July 7, 1941 in Colquitt Georgia during segregation. Chief Zee was introduced to the Washington Redskins by his mother who was an avid Redskins fan. Later, he moved to the Washington, DC area and worked as a car salesman. Things changed on October 2, 1978. On Monday Night Football, our Redskins were taking on their arch rival Dallas Cowboys. That was the night Zema Williams allowed his alter ego, “Chief Zee” to come to life. The crowd at RFK Stadium went absolutely crazy and fell in love with an African-American male dressed in a burgundy and gold faux Native American headdress carrying a toy tomahawk. That night, a legend was born along with a long-lasting friendship some might even call a brotherhood with famous Cowboys fan, the late “Crazy Ray.”
Chief Zee attended every home game outside of the four he missed due to deaths in his family. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow could keep Chief Zee from Redskins games. He traveled to away games on his own dime. Chief Zee was attacked at an Eagles game in Philadelphia after a loss to the Redskins. He suffered a broken leg and a serious eye injury. At another time, after the New York Giants lost to the Redskins, angry Giants fans pushed Chief Zee down a flight of stairs. In the interest of his personal safety, Chief Zee decided to attend Redskins home games exclusively. It was at home where his magic was most appreciated by the fans, in this writer’s opinion.
Let us take this time to memorialize and pay homage to our friend and beloved leader of the fanbase, who didn’t let anything deter him from Hailing the team he loved – our Washington Redskins. Let’s all salute Chief Zee – the man who brought real soul to the Burgundy and Gold. “CRANK UP THAT DIESEL!” Rest in peace, Chief Zema Williams. We truly miss you. HTTR4LIFE and in the hereafter.
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