Gordon C. Willis

Gordon Churchill Willis, Sr., a native of Roanoke, Gordon Willis was born on April 5, 1920, to Bess and Holman Willis. He graduated from Jefferson High School and was an excellent student and patriotic young man. He eventually graduated from the United States Naval Academy and began serving his country during World War II in the Pacific Theater aboard the USS Idaho.

After the war, Gordon Willis became a carrier-based fighter pilot, flying F4U Corsairs from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt before returning to Roanoke to help his father run the family business, Rockydale Quarries Corporation. He eventually became president of Rockydale Quarries Corporation in 1968 and successfully led the company until his retirement in 1994, continuing the family business’ strong tradition of outstanding customer service and commitment to the community.

Mr.  Willis’ contributions to the Roanoke Valley and Commonwealth are many and reflect his compassion, intelligence, and vision. He believed strongly in the power of education to change lives; he was one of the early organizers of the North Cross School and a strong proponent of what became the Virginia Community College System. He also generously gave of his time and talents as a board member of the Virginia Tech Foundation and as chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. A respected civic leader, Gordon Willis served on a biracial committee that worked for peaceful desegregation in the Roanoke Valley. His strong support for Virginia Tech’s Smart Road led to the creation of the state-of-the-art research facility, which has allowed transportation researchers to conduct thousands of hours of research.

Gordon Willis received numerous awards and accolades for his community service, including the Noel C. Taylor Humanitarian Award from Total Action Against Poverty and a Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He had the distinct honor of being named the Commonwealth’s Cultural Laureate by Governor L. Douglas Wilder in 1992 and was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 1995. He passed away in December 2010.

Gordon C. Willis was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 1995.

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