Warner D. Willis, Oakland businessman and pioneer in working to rehabilitate the formerly incarcerated, died on Oct. 19. He was 78.
Born in Shreveport, LA, Willis moved to Oakland at the age of 9 and later graduated from Oakland Technical High School.
He and his wife Lucille started their own Laundromat and dry cleaning business, called Avenue Speed Queen, one of the few Black-owned businesses in the Bay Area at that time.
Along with his wife, he helped develop the Work Furlough Program in California penal institutions. The program was designed to give men and women a chance to work outside of the prison system, to help them transition to the outside world.
Willis later worked on the Alaska pipeline and as a human resource counselor in the ASSETS Senior Employment Program, through the Department of Human Services.
Family members wish to thank the Oakland Police Department for its effectiveness and efficiency in quickly apprehending the man who is accused of killing Willis in the course of a robbery in his home.
Family members also expressed their gratitude for the compassion and concern that officers showed to them.