Sid A. Willis, 20th U.S. Marshal, District of Montana (ref: 945-634)

Photograph courtesy of Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives


Sid A. Willis, 20th United States Marshal for the District of Montana

Sid A. Willis was born at Bentonville, Arkansas on June 5th, 1867. At the age of 18 he came out West, eventually going to work for the N Bar N Ranch near Miles City, Montana in 1888. In 1890 he moved to Glasgow and worked in the meat market business. Fours years later, Willis became the first elected Sheriff of Valley (Glasgow) County and served until 1896. In 1897, Willis went into the hotel business, opening the Shelton Hotel at Havre and a year later moved to Great Falls. He briefly worked at the Anaconda smelter at Black Eagle before opening the Maverick Bar.

In 1908, Willis sold his interest in the Maverick and went in as a partner in the Mint Saloon. Willis, a close friend and patron of western cowboy artist, Charles M. Russell, collected the artist’s original artwork and his “Mint Collection” is now part of the permanent collection of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. He worked for years to establish what is now the C.M. Russell Gallery and Museum in Great Falls and was a longtime fixture behind the bar with a large black cigar clenched in his teeth, dispensing advise. Willis sold the Mint in 1945.

Politically, Willis was a Cascade County Democrat and was a National Delegate to the Democratic National convention in 1928, which nominated Al Smith for president. He also was elected and served a term as a state representative and then state senator in the Montana Legislature.

Replacing Marshal Rolla E. Duncan on June 28,1934; Willis was nominated and appointed marshal by President Franklin Roosevelt and he served in the position until August 15th, 1938. Marshal Willis was succeeded in office by recess appointee William W. Crawford

Willis was the first Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Montana Cowboy’s Association and active in numerous civic organizations around Great Falls. At the age of 88, Willis died at his home in Great Falls on September 3, 1955. He was buried at the Highland cemetery with full rites observed by the Great Falls Chapter of the Elks (BPOE no. 214).
Great Falls Tribune:
- J.H. Baldwin next Montana U.S. Attorney, Willis slated for marshal, Senator B.K. Wheeler announces in Butte,7/22/33:7
- Sid A. Willis nominated by President Roosevelt as United States Marshal for Montana, 6/16/34:1
- Willis confirmed for U.S. marshal; effective July 1, 6/19/34:9
- Flynn is selected as chief assistant on staff of Willis, 7/2/34:9
- Crawford replaces Dennis as deputy marshal, 8/1/34: 10
- Federal officials agree to check on bills for prisoners, 9/6/34:6
- New Deputy Marshal (John H. Irwin, G.F.) 3/3/38:7
- Wm. W. Crawford is appointed Marshal, succeeds Sid Willis, 8/18/38:12
- Wheeler says he preferred Willis named, 8/21/38:8
- Former Sheriff, Marshal…Sid Willis, Close Friend of Charles Russell, Dies, 9/4/55: 1, 8