Doyle Henry Willis

Doyle Henry Willis

Death 22 Jun 2006 (aged 98)
Burial Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, USA
Memorial ID 14713645 · View Source
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FORT WORTH — Doyle Henry Willis, 98, the second longest-serving state legislator in the history of Texas and longest serving state legislator from Tarrant County, serving a total of 42 years, died peacefully Thursday, June 22, 2006.

Funeral: 2 p.m. Monday in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, 800 W. Fifth St. Burial: Following military honors and Masonic rites, Sen. Willis will be laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Visitation: He will lie in state at Lucas Funeral Home, 517 N. Sylvania Avenue from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional visitation will be held in the Independence Chapel at Greenwood Mausoleum, 3100 White Settlement Road from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Memorials: Sen. Willis's family suggests that friends may honor his memory by making contributions to the North Fort Worth Historical Society, 131 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76106.

Doyle Henry Willis was born Aug. 18, 1907, on a farm near Peeltown in Kaufman County, the third child of Alvin Samuel and Eliza Phillips Willis. His ancestors settled in Texas before the Texas Revolution. He was a 1926 graduate of Oak Cliff High School (now Adamson) in Dallas. In 1934, he graduated from the University of Texas with degrees in economics and education. In college, he was a member of the student council and Theta Xi fraternity. Later he taught and coached in Thorndale and Webster.

Encouraged by U.S. Rep. Sam Rayburn, he went to Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown University's night law school, graduating in 1938. While there, he worked for New Deal agencies, including the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, where he was employed as a junior economist. In law school, he was president of the All States Society and vice president of his graduating class.

Returning to Texas, he worked as a special investigator for the regional office of the Public Works Administration in Fort Worth. Entering private law practice prior to World War II, he was also active in the Dallas and Texas junior bar associations and was president-designate of the state organization at the time of his call-up as a reserve officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps in September 1941.

He was assigned to the Houston Army Ordinance Depot, where he met his bride-to-be, Mamie Evelyn McDavid. They were married Feb. 14, 1942, at West University Place Methodist Church. He served as an intelligence officer in the Pacific theater, including service on the staff of Gen. Curtis LeMay at 20th Air Force headquarters. His many citations included the Bronze Star medal; he was also recommended for the Legion of Merit and the Soldier's Medal. He was honorably discharged as a major.

He returned to Fort Worth, opened his law practice and was elected a director of the Tarrant County Bar Association. Police officers who were high school friends of his wife encouraged him to run for the Texas Legislature and he was elected in 1946. Willis served with his brother, Phillip Willis. They were the first brothers to serve together in the Texas House of Representatives. He served three two-year terms as a state representative and in 1952 he was elected to the Texas Senate, where he served through 1962. He then served one term on the Fort Worth City Council. Later he was elected again to the Texas House of Representatives, serving until his retirement in 1997.

He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers and sisters, and by his younger daughter, Dale Elizabeth Willis, who died in 2003. Known as "the dean of the Texas Legislature," he was chairman of the West Texas delegation of the Texas House of Representatives and was affectionately known as "the Mother Teresa of Texas veterans." He also served as president pro tempore of the Texas Senate, chairman of the Texas Veterans Caucus, Texas state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and president of the Tarrant County Veterans Council. In 1961, he was governor for a day. In October 2001, the Fort Worth City Council honored him by proclaiming "Doyle Willis Day." He was honored by the Texas Legislature as "Texas Veteran of the Year" in 1999. His bust was placed in the Capitol complex in tribute to his service.

A stalwart Democrat, he was an advocate for working men and women, children and the elderly. He was a special friend of law enforcement officers, firefighters, public schoolteachers and veterans. He authored and passed legislation to provide civil service protection to police officers and firefighters. He was an original author of the legislation to make what is now the University of Texas at Arlington a four-year institution.

He was also a member of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, North Fort Worth Historical Society, Sons of the Republic of Texas, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and the Carter-Riverside Neighborhood Association. He was a member of the Steeplechase Club, the Ridotto Club and the Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth. He was a 33rd-degree Master Mason and received that organization's Anson Jones Award. He received the Knight of San Jacinto Award from the Sons of the Republic of Texas.

Survivors: His wife of 64 years, Evelyn M. Willis; sons, Doyle H. Willis Jr. and his wife, Libby, and Dr. Dan A. Willis and Paula O'Brien; daughter, Dina Evelyn Willis; grandchildren, Callen Elizabeth Willis, Daniel Harrison Seburn Willis, Doyle Henry Willis III, Danielle Star Willis and Raleigh Easton Willis, all of Fort Worth; nieces, Adeline Patton of Kemp, Billie Nell Johnson of Dallas, Linda Willis Pool of Dallas and Rosemary Willis Roach of Amarillo; and his friend and assistant of 44 years, Gloria Sifuentes.


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  • Created by: Kenneth D. Bogard
  • Added: 23 Jun 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 14713645
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Doyle Henry Willis (18 Aug 1907–22 Jun 2006), Find a Grave Memorial no. 14713645, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Kenneth D. Bogard (contributor 46562702) .