Willis D. Knuckles Jr., who served President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her first term as Ministers of Public Works and Presidential Affairs, is dead, after a short period of illness. Family members say he died from stroke. The sad event occurred in Accra, Ghana late July 2014. He was also Chief of Staff in the office Vice President James E. Green.
Knuckles graduated from the College of West Africa in 1963, and then proceeded to the elite Cuttington College in Soukoko Bong County in 1967 finishing the four year program with a degree in chemistry, but politics would consumed him from the get go. He immediately got employment upon leaving Cuttington at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was then called the Department of State. Its Secretary of State was Rudolph Grimes. Knuckles would later study at the prestigious Ivy League Columbia University, but there he would spend just one semester, returning home to his native Liberia.
Subsequently, he would joined the Liberian Daily Observer under the watchful eyes of editor and publisher Kenneth Y. Best after the 1980 military coup d tat, when Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe and his People Redemption Council [PRC] overthrown the 133 year old oligarchy Americo Liberian rule, primarily dominated by the True Whig Party which in effect was a de facto one party state. But Doe’s ten year rule would see a hellish military dictatorship occasioned by decrees as it terrorized the population that initially welcomed it. By 1984, knuckles would go to jail at the Post Stockade Prison for simply filing a story to the BBC when the Observer which he also reported for was arbitrarily closed down by the Doe and his military men.
Previously, he would serve as Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports in the Tolbert administration. Having fled to exile in the wake of the coup, he would return two years later, taking up assignment for the British Broadcasting Corporation and also as a stringer for the Liberian Daily Observer, Liberia’s first post-coup d tat independent newspaper.
Knuckles, was also a family man and politician. He ran unsuccessfully for the Liberian presidency in 2005, eventually throwing his weight behind the current occupant Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who would go on to win as Africa first female and Liberia’s first post war president. He is survived by his wife, Ms. Hawa Sherman Knuckles, two daughters, Hawa Ellen and Ethel Virginia, a son, Willis III, several grandchildren and brothers.
Willie Knuckles was a churchman, belonging to the Methodist faith. He was also a strong entrepreneur and businessman. During the war when there was no Money Gram and Western Union, Willie knuckle’s office was always busy, as Liberians crowded his office on Broad Street to received remittances and food from their families abroad. He was also instrumental in reorganizing the Liberia Football Association in the 1970s. He was forced to resign from his ministerial post in 2007 amidst allegations of a leaked sex tape.