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WCSD deputy has quite the musical past

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Don and Ann Willis
Don with Carl Perkins from a photo in Don's personal collection
Don Willis

Wilson County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Don Willis will perform at the Country Music Festival and Fish Fry on Saturday, July 25. The event benefits the Wilson County Veterans Plaza and will be held at the James E. Ward Ag Center from 2-6 p.m.

It will not be Willis' first time on stage.

Willis, originally from Alabama, was working with the Florida Highway Patrol when he got the musical opportunity of a lifetime.

"George Jones was doing a show down in Alabama, and the club owner had me sing for George. He told me to put a band together and I ended up working for him," he said of Jones.

Soon Willis was on the road, opening for Jones and playing in Possum Holler clubs around the country. Willis also opened for acts like Jerry Lee Lewis. "It opened doors for me," he said.

His personal life had not gone as well.

Willis went through a divorce and obtained custody of his son, Donnie Willis, Jr. His son was 5-years-old when Willis made the choice to leave the music industry behind.

"I wanted to be there for everything, to see him play ball and lose his first tooth," he said.

Work in the ministry brought Willis to a Mt. Juliet church where he served as assistant pastor. Wilson County is also where he met his wife, Ann.

Willis said they met and married after 17 days. "I just knew that she was who I was looking for, and it was clear that she would be a great mother," he said.

In 2005, Willis went back into law enforcement at the Wilson County Sheriff's Office and also took on the role of chaplain. He said he is looking forward to his return to the stage for the Concert and Fish Fry. One of his acts is a Johnny Cash tribute.

The County Music Festival will feature local artists Karen Wheeler, John Crabtree, Brenda Allen and other country music entertainers.

The Wilson County Sheriff's Office is sponsoring the event. Tickets for the benefit are $10, and include food and the concert. Children accompanied by adults eat free.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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