• Date of Birth: April 29, 1916
  • Born City: Meridian
  • Born State/Country: MS
  • Parents: William W. and Clara Hailey W. Education: A.B. Mississippi Coll., 1936; A.M. Columbia, 1937; ACLS fell, U. Michigan, 1938; Ph.D. Yale, 1940.
  • Date of Death: June 13, 2000
  • Death City: Durham
  • Death State/Country: NC
  • Married: 1943
  • Education:

    A.B. Mississippi Coll., 1936; A.M. Columbia, 1937; ACLS fell, U. Michigan, 1938; Ph.D. Yale, 1940.

  • Dissertation:

    “Compound Words in Aeschylus” (Yale, 1940).

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. Classics, curator of Papyri Coll., Yale, 1940-42; assoc. prof. Greek & Latin, U. Mississippi, 1946-47; prof. Gk & Lat & chair dept. Classics, 1947-63; prof. Gk., Duke U., 1963-85; Fund, Advan. Educ. Fac. Fell. Harvard, 1952-53; mem. Mnging. Comm. ASCSA, 1953-  ; vis prof. U. Texas, 1957-58; U. Michigan, summers 1957, 1961, 1966, 1968; U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1959, 1963-64, 1966; fac. Fell. Theol. Church Divinity Sch. Pac., 1959; sr. ed. GRBS, 1959-79; ed. six vols. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Monographs 1963-67; vis. prof. classics, U. Colorado, summers 1960, 1965, vis. scholar, Fac. of  Religion, Oxford, 1961-62; vis. mem. Brasenose & Queen’s Colls., 1961-62; Am. Philosoph. Soc. Penrose Fund res. Grant, 1962; corr. Mem. Inst. Antiquity & Christianity, 1968-89, Pres. APA, 1972-73; Pres. Southern Classical Association, 1958-60, Pres. CAMWS, 1966-67; Pres. Am. Soc. Papyrologists, 1969-71.  

  • Publications:

    “Athletic Contests in the Epic,” TAPA 72 (1941) 392-417;  “The Etymology and Meaning of γλώσσαργος and στόμαργος,” AJP 72 (1942) 87-90; History of the Replacement and School Command (Washington: Army Ground Forces, 1946); “The Medieval Manuscripts at the University of Mississippi,” Ole Miss Alumni Review 5 (Summer 1952) 8; “Αὐτάδελφος in the Antigone and the Eumenides,” Studies Presented to D. M. Robinson on His Seventieth Birthday, II, ed. G. Mylonas and D. Raymond (Saint Louis: Washington Univ., 1953) 553-58; “Factors Affecting Enrollment in Greek at Harvard,” CJ 50 (1954) 11-20; “A New Papyrus of Aeschines,” TAPA LXXXVI (1955) 129-134; “A New Cratylus: Traduttore, Traditore!” South Atlantic Quarterly 56 (April 1957) 186-95; “The Joint Committee of American Classical Organizations,” CJ 53 (1957) 15-18; “Greek Literary Papyri from Egypt and the Classical Canon,” Harvard Library Bull. XII (1958) 5-34; “The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi,” Proceedings of the IXth International Congress of Papyrology, Oslo 19th-22nd August, 1958 (Oslo: Oslo Universitetsforl., 1961) 381-392; “A Papyrus Fragment of Cicero,” TAPA XCIV (1963) 321-27; “P.Lat.Rob. inv. 1: Cicero In Catilinam 1.13.14,” BASP 1 (1963-64) 19-24;  “Editing of a Third-Century Coptic Codex,” The American Philsophical Society Yearbook 1963 (Philadelphia 1964) 627-28; “An Unrecognized Fragment of First Peter in Coptic,” in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies in Honor of Berthold Louis Ullman (Rome, 1964) 1:265-71;  “The Duke Manuscripts in Latin,” Libr. Notes Duke Univ. Libr. (Durham, N.C.), 39 (1965); “A Census of the Literary Papyri from Egypt,” GRBS IX (1968) 205-41; “ Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Resources,” Gnomon (Durham: Duke University Library, 1970) 71-81; “A Parchment Palimpsest Fragment of Plato at Duke University,” BASP VIII (1971) 87-88; “A New Fragment of Plato's Parmenides on Parchment,” GRBS XII (1971) 539-52; “Note on SB VI 9109,” BASP X (1973) 75-79; “A Parchment Palimpsest of Plato at Duke University and the Ilias Ambrosiana,” Akten des XIII. Internationalen Papyrologenkongresses, Marburg/Lahn, 2. bis 6. August 1971 ed. E. Kiessling and H.A. Rupprecht, Münchener Beitr. zur Papyrusforsch. und  antiken Rechtsgesch. LXVI (Munich: Beck, 1974) 461-67; “Checklist of Editions of Greek Papyri and Ostraca,” with J.F.  Oates and R.S. Bagnall, BASP XI (1974) 1-35; “Recent Papyrological Work in North America,” StudPap XV (1976) 109-117; “Cession of Catoecic Land,” in Collectanea Papyrologica. Texts Published in Honour of H.C. Youtie, I , ed. A.E. Hanson (Bonn: Habelt, 1976) 1:173-188; Checklist of Editions of Greek Papyri and Ostraca, with J.F. Oates and R.A. Bagnall, BASP Suppl. 1, 2nd ed. (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978) REVIEWS: StudPap XIX 1980 141 O'Callaghan; “Two Literary Papyri in an Archive from Panopolis,” ICS III (1978) 140-53; “The Letter of Ammon of Panopolis to His Mother, II,” in Actes du xve Congrès international de papyrologie: Papyrus inédits (P. xv Congr.), ed. J. Bingen and G. Nachtergael (Brussels: Fond. Égyptol. Reine Élisabeth, 1979) 2: 98-115; “Three Robinson Papyri,” with J.F. Oates BASP XVI (1979) 137-144; “Identifying and Editing a Papyrus of Achilles Tatius by Computer,” in Atti del xvii Congresso internazionale di papirologia (Napoli, 19-26 maggio 1983) (Naples: Centro internaz. per lo stud. dei papiri ercol., 1984) 163-66; “A Fragment of Aeschines among the Duke Papyri,” in Studies Presented to Sterling Dow on his Eightieth Birthday, ed. K. J. Rigsby K. J., GRBS Suppl. X (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Pr., 1984) 311-14;  “The Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri,” in Atti del xvii Congresso internazionale di papirologia (Napoli, 19-26 maggio 1983) (Naples: Centro internaz. per lo stud. dei papiri ercol., 1984) 167-173; “A Bibliography,” BASP XXII (1985) ix-xi; “The Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri, II", in Proceedings of the XVIIIth International Congress of Papyrology, Athens 25-31 May 1986, II, ed. Basil G. Mandilaras Basil G.[et al.] (Athens: Greek Papyrol. Soc., 1988) 15-20; “Two Philosophical Texts in the Robinson Collection, II,” ibid, 33-40; “The Duke Papyri. A History of the Collection,” LN LI-LII (1985) 35-48; A Checklist of Editions of Greek Papyri and Ostraka, compiled by John F. Oates, Roger S. Bagnall, K.A. Korp, and Willis, 3rd ed., BASP Suppl. IV (Amer. Soc. of Papyrologists, 1985;  “Oxyrhynchite Documents among the Robinson Papyri,” BASP XXV (1988) 99-127; “The Encounter of Alexander with the Brahmans. New Fragments of the Cynic Diatribe P. Genev. Inv. 271,” with Klaus Maresch, ZPE LXXIV (1988) 59-83; “Un nouveau fragment du codex Bodmer de Ménandre,” Relire Ménandre, ed. Éric Handley and André Hurst, Recherches et rencontres 2; Publ. de la Fac. des Lettres (Geneva: Droz, 1990) 167-71; “The Robinson-Cologne Papyrus of Achilles Tatius,” GRBS  XXXI (1990) 73-102; “The Letter of Peter (1 Peter): Coptic Text, Translation, Notes and Variant Readings,” in The Crosby-Schøyen Codex (+CSCO 521), Subsidia 85 [Louvain 1990) 135-215; “Comoedia Dukiana,” GRBS XXXII (1991) 331-53; “The New Mode of Access to the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri,” in Proceedings of the XIXth International Congress of Papyrology, Cairo, 2-9 September 1989, gen. ed. Abd Alla Hassan El-Mosalamy (Cairo: Ain Shams University Center of Papyrological Studies, 1992) 1:125-131; A Checklist of Editions of Greek Papyri Tablets and Ostraka, compiled by John F. Oates, Roger S. Bagnall, K.A. Korp, and Willis, 4th ed. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992); “The New Compact Disk of Documentary Papyri,” in Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Papyrologists: Copenhagen, 23-29 August, 1992, collected by Adam Bülow-Jacobsen (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1994) 628-631; The Archive of Ammon Scholasticus of Panopolis. 1, The Legacy of Harpocration: Texts from the Collections of Duke University and the Universität zu Köln, ed. with Klaus Maresch (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verl., 1997). Festschrift: Classical Studies Presented to William Hailey Willis, BASP 22 (1985).

  • Notes:

    With the death of William Hailey Willis at the age of 84, Clas­sical Studies, in general, and the field of papyrology, in particular, lost one of its most eminent practitio­ners of the twentieth century.Bill graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi College and went on to receive degrees in Greek from Colum­bia and Yale. After a period of employment at Yale, he served in the U.S. Army in World War II, eventually retiring from the U.S. Army Reserve at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.Before he took up Duke University's invitation to its pro­fessorship of Greek in 1963, Bill Willis taught at the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss"), where he played a leadership role during the years of integration struggles as chairman of the Committee of Nine (within the local chapter of the AAUP) in staunchly supporting the en­rollment of James Meredith as the first African-Ameri­can student at the University. In 1960, led by Sterling Dow, the board of the failing Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies recruited Willis as its editor for two decades.Bill Willis had an outstanding career as both scholar and leader in many areas of Classical Studies. In the latter category, he served, inter alia, as President of the APA, of the Federation Internationale des Études Classiques, and of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, the only papyrologist to hold all three positions. He was an early and instrumental promoter of the TLG, serving on its board for many years, including a term as president (1972-73). He provided effective support for the founding of the Archaeology Museum at the University of Mississippi and of the Art Museum at Duke University. Among his seminal scholarly achieve­ments we may single out a few discoveries: "Comoedia Dukiana." (GRBS 32, 1991); "A New Fragment of Plato's Parmenides on Parchment" (GRBS 12, 1971); and "The Letter of Peter (1 Peter): Coptic text, Transla­tion, Notes and Variant Readings," in J. E. Goehring et al., the Crosby-Schoyen Codex (CSCO 521, Subsidia 85 [Louvain 1990]) 135-215. A Festschrift volume in his honor appeared on the occasion of his retirement from Duke University in 1986. Bill Willis was the prime mover in building the Duke Papyrus Collection between 1963 and 1984. Probably his greatest contribution to the future development of the science of Papyrology has been the creation, with support from David W. Packard and the Packard Hu­manities Institute, of the Duke Data Bank of Documen­tary Papyri, a pathbreaking project in which his talent for organization, perfectionism and attention to detail played a crucial role. It is typical of his scholarly dedica­tion that his last published work, an edition of the letters of Ammon Scholasticus (Pap.Colon. 26.1 [Opladen 1997]) was accomplished while he was heroically fight­ing off the effects of a painful illness that seriously af­fected his eyesight.No account of Bill's achievements can pass over his ex­emplary editorship of the journal, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies. In 1960, at the end of only its second year, GRBS was floundering and in danger of ceasing publication. Bill Willis, then Chair of Classics at the University of Mississippi, was recruited to take over the editorship, a task he acquitted with selfless labor and distinction for over twenty years. He succeeded in set­ting the journal on its feet, attending scrupulously to ev­ery detail of its appearance and to the quality of every article published, and gave it the clarity and rigor that characterized all his work. It is noteworthy that the jour­nal recognized the continuity of Greek civilization into the medieval period long before "Late Antiquity" began to emerge a favored area of scholarly research.Among his many virtues, Bill Willis was notably gener­ous in fostering and guiding younger scholars. His coun­sel, learning, personal integrity and unfailing good hu­mor will sorely be missed by his colleagues and his wide circle of friends and collaborators within the profession.

  • Sources:

    DAS 6th ed. 3:505; APA Newsletter (August 2000) 11; GRBS 39,4 (Winter 1998) 327.Gregson Davis

  • Author: Gregson Davis