Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Retired Chancellor William G. Willard Jr. died November 25

December 4, 2019

Retired Chancellor William G. Willard Jr. of Clarksdale died Nov. 25, 2019, at Peter’s Reef, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, while scuba diving with his family. He was 72.

Retired Chancellor William G. Willard Jr.

Visitation will be on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 9:30 a.m. with the funeral service to follow at 11 a.m. at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Clarksdale. Burial will follow at Oakridge Cemetery. Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Judge Willard was appointed to a vacancy on the Seventh Chancery Court in September 1998. He was elected chancellor of the Seventh District Subdistrict of Bolivar and Coahoma counties in November 1998. He retired from the bench in December 2010, and returned to private law practice in Clarksdale.

Judge Willard was Clarksdale Municipal Judge 1977-1986. He practiced law in Clarksdale 1974-1998. At the time of his appointment to the chancery bench, he was a partner in the firm of Holcomb Dunbar.

He was former president of the Coahoma County Bar Association. He was a fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation and a member of the Lamar Order. In October 2011, he was invited to join the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Attorney Robert Johnston of Cleveland practiced before Judge Willard and was associated with him on cases in recent years in private practice. “He was one of the brightest lawyers I have ever known. He was a super fine judge,” Johnston said.

Judge Willard loved scuba diving and skydiving, Johnston said.

William Glenn Willard, Jr. was born on Oct. 28, 1947, in Bolivar County, Mississippi. His family moved to Coahoma County when he was six months old. He attended Clarksdale-Coahoma High School, where he was a member of the Wildcat Basketball Team and served as captain of the 1964-1965 team. He received the John T. Morris trophy for Best Senior Basketball Player. He also participated in student government, serving as vice-president of the Student Council. He was elected Mr. CCHS in 1965, the year he graduated.

He attended Mississippi Delta Community College on a basketball scholarship and served as captain of the 1966 -1967 Trojan Basketball Team. He married Betty Stone Willard, his high school sweetheart, on Dec. 18, 1966. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Delta State University in January 1969, and joined the United States Marine Corps.

He served in the Vietnam War as both a platoon commander and company commander with the First Marine Division. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain after having served three years on active duty and 18 months in active reserve. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V" for his outstanding service and leadership under fire, as well as the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law, graduating in August 1974. While there, he served as vice-president and president of the Law School Student Government Association.

Survivors are: daughter Elizabeth Willard Hooker and son-in-law Mark Hooker, Jr., of Greenville; grandchildren Mattie Hooker, Mark Hooker III, and Mary Glenn Hooker, all of Greenville; sister Glenda Willard Cirilli and brother-in-law Bobby Cirilli, and sister Margaret Willard Hall, all of Clarksdale; nieces Jen Waller and Robyn Cirilli Rhoden; nephews Richard Cirilli and Hayden Glenn Hall; and DiAnne Smith.

Judge Willard was preceded in death by his wife of 33 years, Betty; his father, William Glenn Willard, Sr.; and his mother, Sammie Ernestine Cockrell Willard.

His complete obituary is at this link: