Transportation Labor Honors the Life and Legacy of Larry Willis
On November 29, 2020, transportation labor and the entire labor movement suffered a devastating loss when TTD President Larry Willis died from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. Larry was a leader, advocate, mentor and friend, and he was a trade unionist to his core.
For more than 20 years, Larry dedicated his life to the labor movement, working tirelessly to enhance the rights and livelihoods of those who work on the front lines of our transportation system. In addition to serving as president, a position he was elected to in 2017, Larry also served as secretary-treasurer, chief of staff, general counsel, and legislative counsel and representative at TTD. His mastery of complex legal and regulatory issues set the foundation for TTD’s policy leadership, and raised the bar for demanding and enforcing worker protections throughout our nation’s transportation system.
During his tenure at TTD, Larry faced some of transportation labor’s most daunting challenges. He met those and other crises head on, showing an unwavering dedication to working people and their unions, and a deep-seated desire to help those suffering from circumstances beyond their control. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Larry took on the insurmountable challenge of restoring our transportation industry and balancing the security needs of the country with the due process working people are entitled to, successfully securing protections in our laws that lie at the center of our homeland security regime. During the 2008 financial crisis, he played a pivotal role in shaping the largest economic stimulus package for transportation investments ever passed in the U.S. Even up until the week he left us, Larry continued to push for health care and economic assistance for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and acted as a steady reminder that recovery from this crisis is not possible without the essential functions performed by transportation workers.
Millions of people have had their lives improved because of the work Larry did. His legacy lives on in the legislation he helped shape, the policy makers he reached through thoughtful, sophisticated arguments, the colleagues and staff he influenced and mentored, and the working people he dedicated his life to.
It is this legacy transportation labor honors by establishing the Larry Willis Leadership Award. This award will be given annually to a public servant or community leader who demonstrates commitment, dedication, and advocacy on behalf of transportation workers. It will be given to individuals who exemplify the work ethic, passion, and mission-driven focus that Larry brought to our movement every day.
Larry’s time with us was tragically cut short, but his spirit of altruism lives on in all those who strive to make our world safer, friendlier, and more equitable for working families. The Larry Willis Leadership Award will honor his memory, serve as a reminder that our collective work to improve the safety, working conditions, and livelihoods of transportation workers continues, and carry forward the legacy of a man who gave so much to so many.
Senator Sherrod Brown was the first to receive the award in 2022, recognized for his efforts to improve the safety, working conditions, and livelihoods of transportation workers.
The 2023 Larry Willis Leadership award went to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, a former TTD staffer and long-time friend of Larry.