Willard received special praise for his 45 years of law practice and leadership in the public service arena, having served previously as county attorney for DeKalb County, city attorney for Sandy Springs and, for the past 13 years, as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.
“Chairman Willard is one of the most influential leaders in the Georgia General Assembly,” State Bar of Georgia President Robin Frazer Clark said in making the presentation. “He has earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the political aisle for the legal expertise, intelligence and passion he brings to his leadership position for the benefit of the people of Georgia.”
During the 2013 legislative session, Willard was the primary sponsor of legislation to reform Georgia’s juvenile code toward the goal of reducing the criminal recidivism rate among juveniles and enhancing the cost effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, which was approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.
He was also recognized for his successful sponsorship on behalf of legislation enacted in 2011 to modernize in a comprehensive manner the code of evidence used in Georgia’s courts for the first time since 1863, among many other legislative issues on which he has worked alongside and provided counsel to members of the State Bar leaders and advocacy teams.
A lifelong Georgian, Willard is a graduate of Georgia State University and Atlanta Law School. He served in the U.S. Marine Reserve and as a banking trust officer before beginning his legal career in 1968.
The Distinguished Service Award is the highest accolade bestowed on an individual member of the State Bar of Georgia. The honor recognizes “conspicuous service to the cause of jurisprudence and to the advancement of the legal profession in the state of Georgia.”