Kent Willis

Arlington, VA

Born and raised in Virginia, Kent is a 1971 graduate of William and Mary with an AB in philosophy.  He worked in Richmond as an advocate for progressive issues for nearly 40 years, first for environmental reform (Bay Committee) and later for the rights of persons with disabilities (Goodwill Industries) and racial fairness in housing (Housing Opportunities Made Equal, where he was executive director for five of his ten years with the organization).   From 1987 to 2012, Kent was employed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the last 23 years as executive director.  At the ACLU, Kent helped to establish Virginians to Abolish the Death Penalty, VADP’s predecessor that formed in the late 1980s.  In 1998, he secured a grant to produce the first comprehensive study of the death penalty in Virginia, Unequal, Unfair and Irreversible, which was followed by Broken Justice, a second critique of the death penalty by the ACLU.   Importantly, the ACLU recognized VADP as the state’s preeminent voice for death penalty reform and provided free office space and clerical support for its Richmond operations for nearly ten years as a means of advancing the shared objectives of the two organizations.


Kent has been married to Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, since 1984.  He has two step-daughters and six grandchildren.