In this profile of retiring Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Willis, he describes how he became a judge:
"Becoming a judge in Virginia can be a highly political process, in which lawyers angle for spots on the bench and nurture the connections they need to get there.
Willis didn't take that route. Instead, he did the best job he could, made his interest known when appropriate, then let the promotions follow or not.
After nine years as commonwealth's attorney, Willis was considered for a circuit court judgeship. But when bar-association colleagues leaned toward another candidate, Willis withdrew his name.
The next year, he resigned as prosecutor, and "by 1974, I had just reconciled myself to going on with private practice and forgetting about judgeships," Willis re-called.
But as the Virginia General Assembly session of 1975 wound down, a circuit judgeship remained unfilled. The House and Senate were at odds over two candidates.
The Friday the session was to end, Willis' phone rang about noon. Would he give it another shot?
"I went home and talked to my wife, and she said, 'If that's what you want to do, go for it,'" Willis remembered.
That afternoon, he drove to Richmond, aced several hours of legislative interviews and accepted the job. A formal vote came the next day."