He worked in the 1960s on Roanoke’s biracial committee, which helped ease the tensions that led other communities into explosive confrontations. He was honored with, among other things, Noel C. Taylor Humanitarian Award from Total Action Against Poverty and a Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1992 by Gov. Douglas Wilder named him a Cultural Laureate of Virginia. Virginia Tech’s experimental Smart Road was named after Willis because of his advocacy. He served on the board of Roanoke Electric Steel Corp. (Steel Dynamics Roanoke Bar Division).