Meet Fani Willis, who conquered her former boss to become Fulton County’s first female DA

Mohammed Awal Aug 13, 2020 at 03:00pm

August 13, 2020 at 03:00 pm | Faces of Black Excellence, Women of Value

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

August 13, 2020 at 03:00 pm | Faces of Black Excellence, Women of Value

Willis worked for 16 years as a prosecutor for Howard, who became the first Black District Attorney in Georgia when he assumed office in 1997. Photo courtesy: wsbtv.

When Fani Willis decided to challenge her former employer, Paul Howard, the longtime Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney she had only one thing in mind – to be of service to humanity.

After her crushing landslide victory against Howard in Tuesday’s runoff election securing more 73 percent of the vote, Willis is set to become the first woman to serve as Fulton’s first District Attorney.

Willis worked for 16 years as a prosecutor for Howard, who became the first Black District Attorney in Georgia when he assumed office in 1997.

“It is historic. I’m the first woman DA, but what is better for these taxpayers who they elected is, I’ve been in the trenches,” Willis said of her annihilation of her former boss, who was seeking his seventh term in office in an interview with Channel 2.

An Emory Law School graduate, Willis had always wanted to be a lawyer growing up just like her father, whose message to her even before she could talk well was, “every human being, even a baby is entitled to some dignity.”

“I believe that in my core,” she told Channel 2.

During Willis’ 16 years as Howard’s employee she tried over 100 cases and supervised more than 100 attorneys on court preparation.

Poised to serve humanity, Willis said one of her focus would be giving first-time offenders a second chance, noting: “We’ll make you do community service to the city you hurt. I just think we can save people, and at the same time, I don’t want any of your listeners to be confused. I am a prosecutor at my heart and my soul. People take kindness for weakness, and I’m very kind, but I’m not weak.”

Again in her 16 years at the Fulton District Attorney’s office, Willis was promoted to the Major Case Division and later named Deputy District Attorney of the Complex Trial Division, reports AJC.

The prosecutor at “heart and soul”, according to the outlet, was the lead prosecutor in the trial of 12 Atlanta Public School teachers accused of correcting standardized test answers by their students. “All but one of the defendants was found guilty of racketeering,” states AJC.

“My staff and I will do what’s right, every time and all the time, whether the news cameras are on us or we’re handling a case that no one knows but us and that family,” Willis said. “That’s what you have the right to respect and that’s what I will do.”

Speaking to AJC, the 49-year-old mother of two described her former boss as “a smart man.”

“I always said he stood in line for brains twice and skipped that line of how to treat people,” she said. “He can look at cases and see things other lawyers miss. He made me a better lawyer. And I’m not the only lawyer he made better.”

Willis said she wants as part of her staff legally conservative minds and legally liberal minds, people she would sit around the table with and hash things out and find the best way to serve the community.

“I want to rely on the wisdom of other people and their experiences to lead the office,” she added.

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