Shirley Wills
Civil Rights

Shirley was born at Charity Hospital in Shreveport, one of four children of Roy and Pauline Copeland Turner. Her father worked in construction, while her mother was employed as a housekeeper at Barksdale Air Force Base. "We had a loving family," she recalls of her childhood. "We went to church every Sunday and through the week and we were just one happy family," she says. For fun she played jacks, jumped rope, went to dances, and listened to the radio. She recalls writing to a radio station, KCIJ, when she was 18, urging management to hire a black radio personality. One was soon on the air. She loved school, she says, and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1963. That July 6 she married Joe Wills at Oakland Baptist Church. They would have two children and four grandchildren. Shirley began work at Captain Shreve, a cafeteria, and attended a business college. She then went to work for AT&T in 1969, and remained with the company for 32 years. She says she loved her co-workers who were "very supportive of each other." Shirley ran for and won twice a seat as the first black female on the police jury. She served from 1978 to 1984. She retired from AT&T in 2001.