FRANK BARTLETT WILLIS was born in Lewis Center, Ohio. After working his way through Ohio Northern University, he studied law and went on to teach economics and law from 1906 until 1910. He was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1901 to 1904 and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 until 1915, when he resigned after being elected governor. Following a pendular swing away from the era of progressive legislation and major reforms, Willis emphasized economy and retrenchment during his administration. Although legislative activity was limited, a number of important measures were adopted during Willis’s gubernatorial term, including the amendment of road laws, reorganization of the state militia and the civil service commission, and revision of the liquor licensing system. In January 1916 Willis ordered members of the Ohio militia to East Youngstown to quell violence that erupted during a steel strike. He also mobilized the entire Ohio National Guard to help address problems at the Mexican border. In the election of 1916, Willis ran against the gubernatorial incumbent he had defeated two years earlier, this time losing. He was later elected to the U.S. Senate. His name was put forward as a presidential candidate in 1928, but he died while campaigning.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of theUnited States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3.Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 21.New York: James T. White & Company.