Learn everything there is to know about Jay Silverheels, including how much money he made as The Lone Ranger, his tribe, his family, how he died, and where he is buried.
The renowned sidekick Tonto, the ever-loyal friend of the Lone Ranger, was played by Jay Silverheels. However, being the first Native American Indian to gain a significant part in Hollywood, we can see that Jay Silverheels was not a minor character in real life.
FACTS ABOUT JAY SILVERHEELS
|FULL NAME||Harold Jay Smith|
|REAL NAME||Harold Jay Smith|
|ALSO KNOWN AS||Jay Silverheels|
|DATE OF BIRTH||26 May 1912|
|BIRTH PLACE||Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada|
|OCCUPATION||Actor, Stuntman, Athlete|
|BEST KNOWN AS||Tonto from The Lone Ranger|
|DATE OF DEATH||05 March 1980|
|AGE||67 when he died|
|HEIGHT||6 feet tall or 1.83 metres|
|ETHNICITY||Native Canadian – Sixth Nation|
|PARENTS||Major George Smith and Mabel Phoebe Doxtater|
|SPOUSE||Bobbi Smith (divorced 1943)
Mary Diroma (married 1945)
|YEARS ACTIVE IN HOLLYWOOD||1937-1980|
|FACEBOOK TRIBUTE PAGE AS TONTO||https://www.facebook.com/tontosilverheels/|
JAY SILVERHEELS, WHO ARE YOU?
Jay Silverheels is a genuine Mohwak / Six Nations Canadian actor best known for playing Tonto in the Lone Ranger television series. He began his career as a lacrosse player before making it big in Hollywood. Jay Silverheels was the first Native Canadian/American actor to play an Indian in a big film.
In 1980, he died at the age of 67.
NET WORTH OF JAY SILVERHEELS
|JAY SILVERHEELS NET WORTH IF HE WERE ALIVE||Approx. $500,000 – $3 Million|
|HOW MUCH DID JAY SILVERHEELS EARN AS TONTO IN THE LONE RANGER?||Approx. $125.00 per week (1950’s)|
|SOURCE OF INCOME||Acting, being stunt man and athlete|
IN THE LONE RANGER, HOW MUCH DID JAY SILVERHEELS EARN?
The Lone Ranger was created on a shoestring budget of $12,500 each episode. In order to make the most of the set, crew, and performers, they would capture material that could be utilized in several episodes over several days.
From 1952 to 1954, John Hart, who played The Lone Ranger, revealed that the minimum wage was $125.00 per week and that they worked six long days.
A Dollartimes inflation calculator estimates that $125.00 in 1950 will cost $1,361.00 in 2020.
HOUSE, CARS, AND ASSETS OF JAY SILVERHEELS
Jay Silverheels used to own a home in Brooklyn, New York. Locals knew his house because he had a huge painting of a Native American chief in full regalia painted on the garage.
A Facebook group claims to have this information “I Grew Up in Brooklyn”, From the 1950s until the 1970s, Jay Silverheels resided in the Brooklyn home.
Jay also possessed a late-model Cadillac, according to a neighbor, which he frequently parked in his driveway.
The cost of an apartment in Brooklyn currently ranges from $175,000 for a one-bedroom to $970,000 for a three-bedroom (2 Bedroom Penthouse)
PARENTS OF JAY SILVERHEELS
Major George Smith, Jay Silverheels’ father, was the highest decorated Native Canadian soldier in World War I. A bomb that detonated near his trench harmed him. Les Smith, one of Jay Silverheels’ brothers, recalls that their father was deaf to the point of being unable to communicate with the children, and that it was their mother, Mabel Phoebe Doxtater, who performed the most of the speaking with the children.
CHILDHOOD OF JAY SILVERHEELS
Jay Silverheels was born Harold Jay Smith at the Sixth Nations reserve in Brandtford, Ontario, Canada’s biggest reserve. He was the third of eleven children in his family (8 boys, 3 girls). The 11 children and their parents grew up in a dilapidated Victorian home on property that the Sixth Nations were given in 1874.
Major George Smith, Jay’s father, reached to the rank of Major with the Canadian Exemplary Force during World War I. When he came home, he farmed more than 100 acres on the reserve, and Jay spent the most of his boyhood on the farm, where he honed his horsemanship. Les Smith, one of Jay Silverheels’ brothers, recalls Jay being able to readily tame formerly wild horses anytime there was a new horse that was difficult to ride.
JAY SILVERHEELS, HOW OLD WAS HE?
Jay Silverheels stood at 1.83 meters or 6 feet tall.
JAY SILVERHEELS IS HOW OLD?
On May 26th, 1912, Jay Silverheels was born. On March 5, 1980, he passed away. He was 67 years old at the time. Gemini was his astrological sign.
EARLY LIFE OF JAY SILVERHEELS / INTEREST IN ATHLETICS
With no paved roads, power, or running water, life on the reserve was difficult. While Jay was assigned to work on the farm and was skilled with horses, his true passion was athletics.
He was always into training and reading wrestling and body-building periodicals, according to family members. He’d create his own barbells out of steel rods and cement blocks since he couldn’t afford to buy them.
Jay excelled at sports because it came naturally to him. He joined the Mohawk Stars Lacrosse Team at the age of 16 and quickly rose to become one of the team’s finest players.
WHERE DID THE NAME JAY SILVERHEELS COME FROM?
Judy “Punch” Garlow, Jay (then Harold Jay Smith) wore white running shoes, according to the goaltender of the Mohawk Stars Lacrosse Team. And because he raced so quickly, all everyone could see when watching him play across the field were his white shoes / feet. And because they could not call him ‘Whitefeet’ due to his being Native Canadian Indian, the term Silverheels came about.
JAY SILVERHEELS’ CAREER BEGINNINGS
Jay Silverheels, at the age of 17, found himself in the thick of the Great Depression. It was also incredibly difficult for a Native Canadian Indian to obtain work on the reserve. So he relocated to Buffalo, where he worked as a waiter in restaurants while continuing to play lacrosse on the side. He quickly transitioned to pro lacrosse and quickly established himself as one of the team’s top and highest-paid players. He exploited not just his athletic abilities but also his physical appearance. He experimented in modeling in between lacrosse games. His chiseled features, typical ‘he-man’ body, and jet-black hair were praised in his initial photos. If he chooses to continue down that path, one user said that he will have no trouble becoming matinee idol material. These are foreshadowing phrases for what Jay would face in the coming years.
Jay’s lacrosse matches took him all over the country, but it was one game in Los Angeles that changed his life. Joe E. Brown, a comedic actor, came to attend one of his matches, and when he saw Jay, he said that someone with natural athletic talents and nice looks like Jay had a future in the movies. This statement piqued Jay’s interest, so he decided to try it out.
JAY SILVERHEELS’ HOLLYWOOD BEGINNINGS
Jay’s good looks and easy-going manner helped him make many friends easily in Hollywood. It was Joe E. Brown who proved to be that “fairy godfather” that got him initial small roles for motion pictures. Jay pursued various jobs while auditioning for roles, much like the modern-day “struggling actor.” Jay couldn’t afford a phone when he first started out, so he had to beg a neighbor to lend him his phone / phone number so that agencies could contact him back. Unfortunately, Jay lost a lot of parts because his next-door neighbor, who is also an American-Indian, began snatching the positions that were supposed to go to Jay.
In 1937, Jay began his career as an extra and stuntman in feature movies. Harold Smith or Harry Smith was his stage name when he initially featured in low-budget westerns and serials.
Later, he decided to go by the moniker Jay Silverheels, which he had used throughout his lacrosse career.
JAY SILVERHEELS BEGINS HOLLYWOOD SUCCESS
He starred in significant films in the late 1940s, including Humphrey Bogart’s Key Largo (1948), Glenn Ford’s Lust for Gold (1949), James Steward’s Broken Arrow (1950), and Walk the Proud Land (1950).
JAY SILVERHEELS IN THE LONE RANGER AS TONTO
Before he became famous as Tonto on The Lone Ranger, Jay Silverheels had already been in Hollywood for nearly ten years. From 1947 until 1957, The Lone Ranger was an American Western drama television series that aired on the ABC television network.
Jay beat out 35 other performers in an audition for the role of Tonto. He portrayed Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s ever-faithful Native American partner, with Clayton Moore (1949-1951 / 1954-1957) and John Hart (1949-1951 / 1954-1957). (1951-1954)
Despite being the first Native Canadian/American Indian to play an Indian in a starring role in Hollywood, Jay Silverheels treated his role as Tonto with respect. He was upset by the stereotype that Tonto’s position imposed upon American Indians, particularly Tonto’s subservience to The Lone Ranger and Tonto’s forced use of Pidgin English. He despised the fact that he had achieved professional success by portraying his own people in a sloppy manner.
THE VALUE OF JAY SILVERHEELS’ TONTO POSITION
As much as Jay Silverheels was upset by the part that catapulted him to prominence, his portrayal of Tonto opened the door to a slew of opportunities for other Native Americans. Prior to Jay’s portrayal of an American Indian in a film, white people depicted American Indians in films at the time.
Even though the character was a cliché, the fact that a significant American Indian role was portrayed by an actual American Indian represents the beginning of a more equitable chance for a minority group. In 1960, Jay Silverheels started and led the Indian Actors Workshop in Los Angeles, which he became a significant champion for Indigenous people in cinema and television.
JAY SILVERHEELS BELONGED TO WHAT TRIBE?
Jay Silverheels came from the Six Nations of the Grand River and was a genuine Mohwak. The only reserve in North America where all six Iraquios nations reside together is Six Nations. The Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora are among these tribes.
TONTO AFTER JAY SILVERHEELS
Following the conclusion of The Lone Ranger, Jay found himself being typecast in Native American roles. To augment his acting income, he ultimately found employment as a salesperson.
IMDB: JAY SILVERHEELS
According to Jay Silverheels’ IMDB page, he appeared in over 100 films during his time in Hollywood, which spanned the years 1937 to 1980.
His final performances were The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), in which he portrays a white-haired chief, and A Different Drum, a short film (1974).
EDNA LICKERS AND JAY SILVERHEELS
Jay was frequently on the road with his lacrosse team, and in his spare time he visited the Buffalo State Fair. Edna Lickert, a 16-year-old Sixth Nations girl, was there when he met her. Edna recounts that their romance began when they happened to sit in the same ferris wheel seat. Jay and Edna also had a child together during the Great Depression, a son called Ron. Jay finally abandoned both his mother and his son. Jay would have to wait a long time to meet his son.
BOBBI SMITH AND JAY SILVERHEELS
Jay’s first wife was Bobbi Smith. In Buffalo, they met and married. Sharon, their daughter, was born to them. When Jay began landing little jobs in Hollywood, he persuaded Bobbie to relocate with their young daughter. Bobbie soon followed, taking a waitressing job while Jay looked for work and busked tables/worked as a bartender on the side.
Jay and Bobbie began to grow apart as his charisma and good looks landed him additional opportunities and he became increasingly well-known in Hollywood circles.
Bobbie divorced Jay and moved back to the East Coast with their daughter in 1943. After 14 years, Jay would see his daughter Sharon for the first time.
MARY DIROMA AND JAY SILVERHEELS
Later, Jay’s passion for horses led him to meet Rochester native Mary Diroma, a bank clerk at a racetrack in Los Angeles. They met thanks to a common acquaintance. They married in March of 1954. Marilyn, Pamela, Karen, and Jay Anthony were their four children.
Jay Anthony, better known by his stage name Jay Silverheels, Jr, is an actor.
WHAT CAUSED JAY SILVERHEELS TO DIE? WHEN JAY SILVERHEELS DIED, HOW OLD WAS HE?
Jay Silverheels died on March 5, 1980, after a seizure caused by pneumonia complications. He had previously had a stroke between 1974 and 1975. When he died, he was 67 years old. This was the initial death notice from the Washington Post, which was published on March 6th (day after his death).
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO JAY SILVERHEELS?
Jay Silverheels was cremated, and his ashes were dispersed on his farm on Canada’s Six Nations Indian Reserve.