Jay Silverheels

Jay Silverheels


5/26/1912, Six Nations Reservation, Brantford, Ontario, Canada



Birth Name

Harold J. Smith Silverheels



Also Known As

Harry Smith, Silverheels Smith
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JAY was the son of a Mohawk Chief. He excelled in sports such as lacrosse and amateur boxing. He then entered HOLLYWOOD in 1938 as a stunt man. He usually played "Indian" parts, but became famous when he co-starred with actor CLAYTON MOORE as TONTO, THE LONE RANGER'S…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • Jay's first major speaking role was as Seminole local John Oscelo in Key Largo (1948), with co-stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson.

    • The Screen Actors' Guild has Jay's birthday erroneously listed as May 26, 1919, when both family and US Government records show he was indeed born on May 26, 1912.

    • Jay took his stage name of Silverheels from his track days as a youth, when, wearing white shoes, he ran so fast his feet appeared to be streaks of white. Since he thought it would be awkward for a Native American to have the name of Whiteheels, he chose Silver instead.

    • Jay taught fellow Native American actor Michael Horse, who went on to play Tonto in the poorly received Legend Of The Lone Ranger (1981).

    • When Jay had a heart attack in 1955, the writers of the "Lone Ranger" wrote in the part of Dan Reid, the Ranger's nephew, to fill in as partner to the Ranger until Jay recuperated. It was explained in the story that Tonto was off to Washington meeting with the "Great White Father" concerning Native American affairs.

    • Jay was 6 feet tall.

    • Jay was married to Mary Diroma from 1946 until his death in 1980. He had one son, Jay Silverheels Jr., who is also an actor.

    • Jay beat out 35 other actors for the part of Tonto in "The Lone Ranger".

    • Jay's home reservation of Six Tribes in Ontario, Canada, now has a sports center named in honor of him.

    • Jay was the first Native American to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on July 21, 1979.

    • Jay was inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1997.

    • Jay was given the Golden Boot In Memoriam award in 1990.

    • Jay played Apache chief Geronimo in two films, Broken Arrow (1950) and Walk The Proud Land (1956).

    • Jay finished second in the Eastern Square middleweight division finals of the Golden Gloves boxing championship in Madison Square Garden in 1938.

    • Jay founded the Indian Actors' Workshop in Echo, California in 1963.

    • Jay worked as a busboy and a waiter before going into acting.

    • Jay was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1993.

    • Jay has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6538 Hollywood Boulevard.

  • Quotes

  • BOOK 1st biography of Jay Silverheels

    Yesterday, in the Wayne Gretzky Ctr. Brantford Ontario Canada, adjacent to the Grand River Six Nations Territory, Jay Silverheels and the Powless brothers were inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame. I completed the 1st biography of Jay Silverheels called TONTO: The Man in Front of the Mask and it is now on permanent display in the 'lacrosse' case among many more.

    More images of my book are on

    I had the pleasure to meet the Powless family who's father and uncle played with Jay. I quote Gaylord Powless in my book as to how Jay got his nick name 'Silverheels'.

    Jay has been nominated for Canada's Hall of Fame and hopefully will be inducted in 2015.

    Jay broke many barriers starting here at Six Nations Territory and the surrounding communities all the way down to Hollywood California.