|Mr. John Stillmon Willis, Jr.
Monday January 12th, 2009, was the evening for one of the biggest crowds yet for a “Night for the Museum.” They came to hear Mr. John S. Willis the first guest speaker for the 2009 museum season. Museum Director; Schelley Brown stated, “I knew Mr. Willis was going to draw a large crowd from the amount of calls we begin receiving early last week. You could have heard a pin drop as Mr. Willis told of his many missions in such detail with twist of humor and through a few tears shared by the crowd. It is amazing to see someone with that kind of memory for detail share those moments in their life. I am so pleased with the response to these historic events. We had a crowd tonight of over 200, we had to go next door to get more chairs! People waited in line to get a chance to talk to Mr. Willis and thank him for what he did in WWII. It was a very moving night for everyone.”
Mr. Willis a longtime Webster Parish citizen grew up in the Doyline area of the parish. John Stillmon Willis, Jr. was born on the Willis farm south of Doyline to Ada Kennon Willis and John Stillmon Willis, Sr. in June of 1919. Mr. Willis spoke of his amazing experiences. He spent four years in the service, the later three years in the Army Air Corps. His combat service was as a B-17 Pilot out of Deephen-Greene Airbase with the 452nd Bomb Group in England. The average casualty rate for the Bomb Groups was a staggering 77% with his unit having an 85% casualty rate. Willis flew amazingly 35 missions. Mr. Willis even had a humorous encounter with the famous Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy Doolittle (Doolittle’s Raiders) that resulted in a surprise brand new B-17 for Mr. Willis. Many remember Mr. Willis and his late wife Mrs. Lillian Life Willis as a part of the Webb Hardware family. These two played important parts in the fabric of our community. They retired in 1988. Lillian died in 2006.
Black History Month will bring a very special “Night for the Museum”. In February we have a very special speaker on schedule Mr. Roy G. Phillips will be sharing his research of his family roots all the way back to Africa. This is an extraordinary journey that you don’t want to miss with more information to follow soon.
Many speakers are already lined up for an exciting and history filled 2009 schedule. The events will be held at Christopher’s located at 615 Main Street in Minden on the 2nd Monday of the month. Doors open around 5:30 refreshments are served at 6:00 p.m. with speakers to begin at 6:30. No admission is charged for the events but donations to the museum are welcomed. DVDs are available for all of the museum speakers. The 2008 collection is now on sale for $75 for 9 speakers. Mr. Willis’s DVD will be available by the end of the week for $10 each. Contact the museum at 377-3002 for information. For more information on the museum you can visit the web site at http://www.museuminminden.blogspot.com/ or call Schelley Brown at 318-423-0192.