Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Arthur J. Willis
MSA SC 3520-12929


Born Arthur John Willis, September 27, 1813, in Sussex County, Delaware. Parents Short A. and Mary (Rich) Willis. Married Caroline E. Hutchinson (d. 1874), 1839; Belle M. Rawlings (d. 1911), 1875. Three children: Mary Virginia, Caroline S., and Georgeanna. Died, Potter's Landing, Caroline County, Maryland, March 16, 1889.

Arthur J. Willis was a legislator, businessman and investor. For many years, he worked in the freight and shipping industries, and traveled widely during the 1830s. He returned to Maryland in 1839, and settled in Potter's Landing, Caroline County, Maryland, in 1849. He served in Maryland State Senate from 1849 to 1854 and 1861 to 1864. He also served in the House of Delegates from 1865 to 1866. Willis was a candidate for State Senate in 1874 but was not elected. The most visible portion of his legislative career came during the Civil War. Willis strongly opposed secession, introducing fiery resolutions condemning the Confederacy and often praised President Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Willis earned a reputation for his speeches. During the 1864 session, the Baltimore American wrote that "Mr. Willis, the eccentric Senator from Caroline County...spoke with his usual fanatical use of language...After proceeding in this strain for an hour and a half he yielded to a motion for recess." Later in his life, Willis was a leader in the Republican Party. At the beginning of the Civil War he was commissioned as a Colonel in the Maryland Militia and unsuccessfully sought to establish a regiment on the Eastern Shore.

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