Willis Knuckles Is Dead

The death is announced of Mr. Willis D. Knuckles, former Minister of Public Works and former Minister of Presidential Affairs, Republic of Liberia.   He died in Accra, Ghana this morning, following a brief illness. He held both positions during the administration of Liberia’s current President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Mr. Knuckles was widely known for his extraordinary organizing skills, which he put to great use during the two presidential campaigns of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2005 and 2011. These political initiatives led her to victory on both occasions.

A staunch, lifelong Methodist, Mr. Knuckles also organized fund raising drives for the rebuilding of the Seys United Methodist Church of Careysburg, Montserrado County, first in the mid-2000s from devastation during the war, and a few years when the newly renovated church was destroyed by a mysterious fire.

Following his graduation from Cuttington College and Divinity School in the 1967, Willis, though he graduated in Chemistry, began working for the State Department under Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes. Secretary Grimes immediately saw promise in Willis’ intellectual and diplomatic skills and sent him to Columbia University, where both Grimes and his Deputy, Ernest Eastman, had studied, to pursue the Master’s in International Relations. But Willis left Columbia after a semester and returned home.

In the early 1970s he became the Chief of Staff to Vice President James E. Green, President W.R. Tolbert’s first Vice President.

Mr. Knuckles later became Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, under Minister Estrada Bernard–a post Knuckles held until the 1980 coup d’etat, when he and his family sought exile in the United States.

Upon his return home in 1982, Willis, an excellent writer in the English language, became managing editor of the Daily Observer newspaper, as well as Liberia correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

He reported forthrightly on many of the troubles which the Daily Observer and others encountered during the regime of Head of State Samuel K. Doe and the People’s Redemption Council. When in 1984 the Daily Observer was closed down for the fourth time, Willis flashed a detailed story to the BBC, which was immediately aired. Willis was immediately arrested and imprisoned at the Post Stockade, the maximum security prison.

Following his release months later, Willis, an avid sports enthusiast and energetic individual, took the leadership in reorganizing the Liberia Football Association (LFA).

He is a lifelong member and key organizer of the Old Timers Football Club, with whom he played every Sunday until his recent illness.

He is survived by his loving wife, Mrs. Hawa Sherman Knuckles, two daughters, Hawa Ellen and Ethel Virginia, a son, Willis III, grand children, several brothers, including Gabriel Knuckles, a sister, Bushin Knuckles and many other relatives. Courtesy Daily Observer online (Liberianobserver.com).

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