Sherman Willis, Attorney
Gardner, Willis, Sweat, & Handelman
Southern gentleman. It's a word that easily comes to mind when thinking of Sherman Willis. For many years, he has lived in our community and been a role model of integrity, modesty, and service, and as I sit talking with him, he instantly puts you at ease with humor – a Southern tradition that weaves its way into most conversations effortlessly when done by a true storyteller – which he is. He is also a father, a husband, a friend, an advisor, and a public servant. Being entertained with stories of his childhood, it becomes clear just how much he has achieved. "Neither of my parents had more than a second grade education, but they worked hard all their lives, and they instilled that in each of their children." Inspired by his political science teacher to consider law school, he graduated from Darton in 1969, earned a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Georgia State University, and went on to earn a Law Degree from Emory University School of Law in 1973. His support of the college goes back decades. "I have been the personal legal counsel to every President Darton has ever had, and taught classes for ten years on campus," he says with a grin as he adds, "I bet you didn't know that." He remembers his days at Darton with fondness. "The small classes, personal attention, and personal relationships with faculty are what I remember most about Darton. Darton turned me around, from a poor high school student to a really good college student." In 2003, he was named Friend of the College for his outstanding support not only to its Presidents, but also to the college itself. He continues to remain on the Foundation Board as a trustee. In addition, he participates in and serves on many civic boards and committees. He is a member of the American and Dougherty Circuit Bar Associations, of which he has served as President and Secretary/Treasurer. He is past President of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, was a member of the Albany/Dougherty Economic Development Commission, the Albany/Dougherty Payroll Development Authority, Suntrust Bank of South Georgia Board of Directors and Executive Committee, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Bankers Association, the Community Bankers Association, the Association of Credit Executives, and past President of the Albany Rotary Club. When asked about advice that he may have for students today, he smiles. After all, as an attorney, giving advice comes naturally. "Always remember the people and institutions that helped you along the way, and that you have an obligation to pay back what they've done for you with your time and money." Mr. Willis resides with his wife, Jean, at their home on Lake Blackshear. He has two children, Warren and Jenny, and four grandchildren.