She has had a positive impact on generations of Longview residents.
And though the life of Sidney Bell Willis ended this week, we are certain her positive presence will continue to be felt for generations to come through the countless lives she touched and her official accomplishments.
As a schoolteacher for 43 years, Mrs. Willis nurtured countless young people’s minds. Using her gift as a music minister, she glorified God through song. And as a Longview City Council member, she worked to help make our city’s streets safer, to put in place a city transit system, to boost the south-side area she represented until 2011 — and to always stand up and speak out for what is right and just.
Her record of accomplishment for Longview cannot be denied. Neither can the fact her path to such distinction was not an easy one.
A product of Longview’s once-segregated public school system, Mrs. Willis preferred to focus on the movement away from that era, on the opportunities she found in Longview, and not to dwell on the past.
Receiving the Unity Award in 2009 from the city’s Race Relations Committee, she praised the community for progress away from its racist roots.
“You are sitting here today as people who want to see differences dissolved and unity achieved,” she said. “I love Longview. I would never choose to be anywhere else. This community has nurtured me and been the foundation of all my dreams.”
Because of her work, Longview has been — and will be — the foundation for many more dreams for many years to come.
The life of Sidney Bell Willis should serve as an example to all of us of how to make our lives, and our communities, better places.