Willis Edward Barbee, Jr. was born February 18, 1932, and graduated from Lincoln High School
in 1950. He was an only child; he and his parents (William Edward Barbee, Sr. and Gladys Augusta Jones Barbee) lived at 509 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro. His grandparents were Tony and Nellie Strayhorn.
After graduation from Lincoln High, he attended college at Morristown College in Tennessee, a two-year black college. He was playing in a football game against Elizabeth City State Teachers College (now Elizabeth City State University
) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the afternoon of October 28, 1950. Barbee's neck was broken during the game, and he died the morning of October 29 at Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City.
He was buried in the West Chapel Hill cemetery
in Chapel Hill October 29, after a 2:00 p.m. service at the Rock Hill Baptist Church
in Chapel Hill. His mother died in 1969 and was buried alongside him. His father died March 6, 1998 at the age of 90, and is buried alongside his wife and son.