William Nicholas Willis

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This article is about the Australian politician. For other uses of this name, see William Willis (disambiguation).

William Nicholas Willis (3 August 1858 – 3 April 1922) was an Australian politician and newspaper proprietor.

Early life[edit]

Willis was born in Mudgee, New South Wales and educated in a denominational school at Mudgee and briefly at St Mary's School in Sydney. He left school at nine to support his mother after his father's departure to California, first as an office boy. He eventually became a successful hawker along the Macquarie, Darling and Bogan Rivers. Between 1879 and 1888, he opened and managed stores in partnership with T. L. Richardson, at Girilambone, Nyngan, Mulga and Brewarrina. He bought the Central Australian and Bourke Telegraph. In 1888, he married Mary Hayes and became a grazier near Brewarrina.[1]

Political career[edit]

Willis ran unsuccessfully for Bourke in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1887, but won it as a Protectionist in 1889 and held it to 1894. Willis founded the Truth in 1890. He was the member for The Barwon from 1894 to 1904. He had become a supplier of horses and fodder to the British Army in South Africa and he recruited Australian bushmen as scouts and sharpshooters during the Boer War.

John Haynes constantly accused Willis and Paddy Crick of corrupt land deals in the Newsletter. On the appointment of a Royal Commission under William Owen to investigate the administration of the Lands Department in 1905, Willis fled to Western Australia and South Africa. He was brought back to Sydney in 1906, but although tried twice for obtaining money by false pretences, fraud and conspiracy, the juries failed to agree on a verdict.[2]

Later life[edit]

Willis moved to London about 1910. He died penniless of coronary heart disease in Lambeth, survived by his wife, six daughters and a son.[1]

Notes[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Thomas Waddell
Alexander Wilson
Member for Bourke
1889 – 1894
Served alongside: Waddell/Howe/Waddell, Davis/Langwell
Succeeded by
Edward Millen
Preceded by
New seat
Member for The Barwon
1894 – 1904
Succeeded by
Abolished