Achille Murat Willis, Jr. (“Monk”) was born October 9, 1916 in Richmond, Virginia. He was the son of a surgeon, Achille Murat Willis, Sr. Monk Willis was a banker, civic leader, and long-time regent of the University of North Texas.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Economics from Washington and Lee University in 1938. He also attended Harvard Business School during 1938-1939. He left Harvard to accept a position at Johns-Manville, and insulation and roofing manufacturer, based in New York City.
He would work on Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign in 1942. Following the election, he joined the U. S. Navy, serving until 1946.
Following the war, he returned to New York City, where he met his wife, Frances Maine Hundahl. They moved to Longview , Texas where Mr. Willis became the district manager for Mutual of Omaha.
During his life he worked as an advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson during Johnson’s senate campaign and again as president. In 1972, he joined the staff of U. S. Representative Ray Roberts. He also served as the chief of staff of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, 1976-1983.
He was first appointed to the University of North Texas’s Board of Regents in 1965 by Governor John Connally. Governor Preston Smith re-appointed him in 1972. Dolph Briscoe was the third governor to appoint him to the Board in 1979. Mr. Willis was elected the chair of the Board of Regents in 1969. He would be re-elected to that position every year until 1979. Willis would serve the university until 1983.
The “new library” on the UNT campus was opened in 1971. The structure was named after A. M. Willis, Jr. when it was formally dedicated on April 25, 1972.
Upon his retirement in 1983, “Monk” Willis moved from Washington, D. C. to Longview, Texas. He was the co-recipient of the first Unity Awards presented by the Longview Race Relations Committee in 2005.
Mr. Willis died on January 14, 2011, at the age of 94.
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