Albert S. Willis

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Albert S. Willis
A man with receding black hair and a black beard and mustache wearing a black jacket, pulled tightly
United States Ambassador to Hawaii
In office
November 7, 1893 – January 6, 1897
PresidentGrover Cleveland
Preceded byJames Henderson Blount
Succeeded byHarold M. Sewall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1887
Preceded byHenry Watterson
Succeeded byAsher G. Caruth
Personal details
Born(1843-01-22)January 22, 1843
Shelbyville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 1897(1897-01-06) (aged 53)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Resting placeCave Hill Cemetery
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of Louisville School of Law

Albert Shelby Willis (January 22, 1843 – January 6, 1897) was a United States Representative from Kentucky and a Minister to Hawaii.


Born in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Willis attended the common schools and graduated from the Louisville Male High School in 1860. He taught school for four years before graduating from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1866. He was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in Louisville. He served as prosecuting attorney for Jefferson County from 1874 to 1877.

Willis was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fifth and to the four succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1887). He served as chairman of the Committee on Rivers and Harbors during the Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1886.

An 1893 editorial cartoon with Willis, Queen Liliʻuokalani, and President Sanford B. Dole by the newspaper The Morning Call

He resumed the practice of law before being appointed Minister to Hawaii by President Grover Cleveland in 1893. Willis was sent to Hawaii on a secret mission to meet with deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani and obtain a promise of amnesty for those involved in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii if Cleveland restored her to the throne. Willis reported to the Secretary of State in Washington that she was intent on killing the culprits. There was a dispute: Willis said the Queen said "beheading"; she later said she used "execute."[1][2][3]

Finally, the Queen reversed herself and told Willis she could issue an amnesty. On December 18, 1893, Willis demanded on behalf of Cleveland to dissolve the Provisional Government of Hawaii and restore the Queen to power. Willis' mission was a failure when Sanford B. Dole sent a written reply declining the surrender of his authority to the deposed queen. President Cleveland then referred the matter to Congress, which commissioned the Morgan Report, which exonerated the U.S. minister and peacekeepers from taking any part in the Hawaiian Revolution. Following the Morgan Report, Cleveland reversed his stance, rebuffed the queen's further pleas for interference, and maintained normal diplomatic relations with both the Provisional Government and its successor the Republic of Hawaii.[4]

Willis served as Minister to Hawaii until his death in Honolulu on January 6, 1897. An elaborate state funeral was held for him in the ʻIolani Palace (temporarily renamed the Executive Building).[5] He was interred in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.


  1. ^ Charles W. Calhoun (2015). Gilded Age Cato: The Life of Walter Q. Gresham. University Press of Kentucky. p. 150. ISBN 9780813161792.
  2. ^ Eric T. L. Love (2005). Race over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865-1900. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780807875919.
  3. ^ Nick Cleaver (2014). Grover Cleveland's New Foreign Policy: Arbitration, Neutrality, and the Dawn of American Empire. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 29. ISBN 9781137448491.
  4. ^ Nick Cleaver (2014). Grover Cleveland's New Foreign Policy: Arbitration, Neutrality, and the Dawn of American Empire. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 46–47. ISBN 9781137448491.
  5. ^ "Last Sad Rites: Funeral of U. S. Minister Willis Yesterday: Civis and Military Display: Remains in State at Executive Building". The Hawaiian gazette. Honolulu. January 12, 1897. Retrieved August 8, 2010.

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

External links[edit]

Media related to Albert S. Willis at Wikimedia Commons

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th congressional district

March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1887
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Minister to Hawaii
Succeeded by