Joseph Willis 1758?-1854
“In all the history of Louisiana Baptists,” wrote Glen L. Greene, “it would be difficult if not impossible to find a man who suffered more reverses, who enjoyed fewer rewards or who single-handedly achieved more enduring results for the denomination than did Joseph Willis.” The life and ministry of Joseph Willis reads more like fiction than the real life experiences of a man who was born a slave, served with honor in the American Revolution, and was the first Baptist to preach the Gospel west of the Mississippi River. His life is an inspiring record of triumph over tragedy and victory over adversity. Deprived of his rightful inheritance in North Carolina, Willis went to South Carolina. From there he went west to the Mississippi Territory and then on into Louisiana, where despite violent persecution from the Roman Catholic establishment he successfully established a number of churches.