Montgomery’s first African American veterinarian dies at 80

Montgomery’s first African American veterinarian dies at 80
Dr. Edward Donald Willis, the first African American veterinarian to practice and own an animal hospital in Montgomery, has died at age 80. (Source: Willis family)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Funeral services were held Saturday for Dr. Edward Donald Willis, the first African American veterinarian to practice and own an animal hospital in Montgomery.

Willis was born on Aug. 17, 1940, the sixth of seven children born to the late Isaac Eugene Willis and Rosetta Gordon Willis of Selma.

Willis graduated from Hudson High School at age 16, received an undergraduate degree from Tuskegee Institute in 1961 and earned his doctorate from the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1966.

Commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army, his military service included a tour of duty in Vietnam with the Veterinary Corps, an assignment to the U.S. Army Reserve and the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and an active duty post at the Pentagon during Operation Desert Storm.

In 2000, Lt. Col. Willis retired from the the military, having been recognized with several awards and medals during his distinguished career.

A resident of Montgomery for more than 50 years, Willis opened Willis Animal Clinic in 1975 where he initially provided care for local animals from a trailer until he built the hospital’s current location across the street on Mobile Highway.

When he became ill, his daughter Dr. Dana Willis Henderson, also a veterinarian, stepped in to continue the family business.

Willis passed away peacefully at his home on March 6 while surrounded by family. He was 80.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Helen Ann Roberts Willis, as well as three adult children.

Funeral services were held at Montgomery’s Ross-Clayton Funeral Home with interment at Greenwood Cemetery.

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