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The Herald-Journal Willis Collection is the centerpiece of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries’ visual arts holdings. The collection of over 400 historical photographs was donated by the Herald-Journal in 1999.
Most of the photographs were taken by Alfred Tennyson Willis, a Spartanburg commercial photographer, and date from the early 1900s to the 1940s. Alfred’s son Robert Henry (Bob) Willis, also a photographer, took many of the later photographs in the collection after his father’s death in 1945. Bob Willis sold the compiled collection to the Herald-Journal, the local Spartanburg newspaper, in 1984.
Included in the Herald-Journal Willis Collection are images by several photographers other than Alfred and Bob Willis. If the photographer is known, the name is provided. The Herald-Journal donated the historical images in order to make them available to the public and to preserve them for future generations.
The Herald-Journal published a series of articles based on the photographs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. If a date is known for an accompanying article, it is included as an additional resource.
About Alfred and Bob Willis
Alfred T. Willis was a native of Williston, South Carolina, and was the son of a professor. He was struck by a taxi in Spartanburg and died several days later on April 10, 1945, at the age of 64. The Spartanburg Herald noted that he had been a well-known photographer in Spartanburg for about 40 years. Willis was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and an organizer of the original National Guard unit in Spartanburg.
Bob Willis inherited Willis Studio when his father died in 1945. The business grew and moved several times. He became a photographer for Duke Power and was known as “Photo” Willis to many Duke Power employees. He worked with the company for over 40 years and was known for his fearlessness when taking pictures. Bob Willis died in 1993.
The Herald-Journal Willis Collection is kept in the Kennedy Room vault and may be viewed in person upon request. Copies from the collection may be purchased, with certain restrictions.