Drew County native Dr. James Willis has offered to donate to the Drew County Museum and Archives the proceeds of his book What Almost Didn’t Happen, a coming of age story of his life set in Drew County in the 1940s.
In the book, Willis tells of his endeavors and the various people and encounters he experienced in life to show how one’s environment influences future learning. Though his experiences, he shows how decisions in a person’s life are like a fork in the road. The book has lots of photos.
“Willis’ offer of giving the proceeds of his book to these local institutions is an altruistic gesture on his part and a great way for the Historical Society to obtain operating funds for the Museum and Archives,” said Drew County Historical Society spokesperson Beth Thurman. “With the interest rates as they are in these tough economic times, the two are having equally hard times keeping up with salaries and repairs. The carriage house beside the Museum is in bad disrepair and needs immediate attention. Also, the cedar-shake roofs on both the cabins out back are leaking, and replacing this style roof is expensive. Presently, we have had to cut the (museum employees’ hours) and the museum is in need of new wiring.
“The money we receive from our trusts gets less and less as interest rates decrease, and the care for the buildings, along with the heating and cooling, seem to stay one step ahead of the income,” Thurman said. “The stipends the county and city graciously allot us, as well as the fund-raisers and income from membership dues, are not keeping up with the present costs. For these reasons, the Historical Society hopes that you will purchase one of these books as all the proceeds will go to the Museum and Archives.”
The cost of a hard cover copy of the book is $35.95. The soft cover price is $23.01
Willis is a native of Drew County, who grew up in the White Hall community south of Monticello and graduated from Drew Central. He was the son of Earl and Lela McKinstry Willis, local educators, who were both native Drew County residents. Willis’ father was a long-time superintendent of the Drew Central schools, and his mother was an English teacher at both Drew Central and Arkansas A & M College. Later, they moved to Little Rock to work with the state department of education before they retired in Monticello.
Willis also was a graduate of Arkansas A & M after serving in the United States Army. Later, he received both his masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. During his educational career, Willis was a high school history teacher, principal, and college professor in many states across the country. Presently, he is a retired professor emeritus of Murray State University and lives in Little Rock.
Willis is also the author of two previous books: a nonfiction history, The Arkansas Confederates in the Western Theater, and a fictional history, The Other Side of Silence. Both were award-winning successes.
“If you are not a reader and have no interest in reading a very entertaining account of a local Drew County youth and his interesting life encounters, it is the hope of the Drew County Historical Society that you might make a (tax-deductible) donation to the Museum and Archives,” Thurman said. “As a local resident, the Society is banking on your wanting these institutions to prosper and continue to help history come alive as well as providing great research materials for genealogists, historians, and local students.”
The Drew County Historical Society also invites those who wish to support the museum to consider becoming a member. Membership dues support the museum and archives.
You may contact the Drew County Historical Society at the following address: 404 S. Main, Monticello, AR 71655