u Benjamin C. Willis, whose 13-year tenure as superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools brought him both fame and notoriety, died late last month at the age of 86.
Mr. Willis was appointed to the Chicago post in 1953, after serving as superintendent of schools in Buffalo and Yonkers, N.Y.
During his early years on the job, he gained national recognition as an innovative educator, but during the 1960's he became a frequent target of criticism by civil-rights activists, who charged that his policies were helping to perpetuate racial segregation in the city's classrooms.
Mr. Willis authorized the use of more than 600 portable classrooms, which became known as "Willis Wagons," to ease overcrowding at predominantly black schools, rather than bus the students to less crowded white schools.
In 1966, Mr. Willis bowed to the mounting criticism of his policies and retired from the Chicago post. He subsequently served as superintendent of the Broward County, Fla., public schools, from 1970 to 1972.
Vol. 08, Issue 03