James Robert “Bob” Willis, coordinator of Lincoln County Emergency Management for 30 years, died Thursday.
Willis headed up Emergency Management from 1963 to 1993 and was coordinator during the civil defense period, during which a nationwide system of fallout shelters was created.
In 1989, Gov. James Martin conferred upon Willis The Order of the Long Leaf Pine in recognition of his distinguished service to Lincoln County and the state of North Carolina.
EM Director Susan Spake said people always spoke highly of Willis, even after he left his post in the department.
“We still have people that ask about him,” Spake said. “He was known statewide as far as emergency management.”
Born in Lincoln County, Willis served in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II.
He was the owner of Piedmont Casket Company in Lincolnton and was an organizer and charter member of Lincoln Life Saving and First Aid Crew.
His duties as Emergency Management coordinator also included managing the countyâ€™s ambulance service for 16 years.
Willis was coordinator when Lincolnton Police Chief Dean Abernathy started working at the department.
“He was very professional. When you needed him, he was there,” Abernathy said.
“He was just a wealth of information. When you had a problem, he was the one you called.”by Albert Dozier