--Sources Recount Last Days
It wasn’t expected that the man who influenced decisions in the past and present administrations in Liberia would have ended his life begging the Liberian government to help him seek medical treatment abroad.
The death of Willis D. Knuckle, former Minister of Public Works and former Minister of Presidential Affairs, died in Ghana yesterday morning following a brief illness.
The former associate of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is reported to have died from stroke.
Family sources say Mr. Knuckles has been sick for some time, and it was recently noticed that his condition deteriorated for which he was flown to Ghana for treatment.
Before his death, former colleagues of Mr. Knuckles said he had requested the government of Liberia to assist him with US$50,000 to enable him seek medical treatment in Ghana. However, it is not clear whether the money was given.
Some of his friends informed The NEWS that as of late, Knuckles, once powerful man in Liberia, was ported to have gone broke. His businesses had collapsed and he was no longer involved into the export and import of goods from the United States that he was famously known for.
He fell from grace when a local newspaper published a nude photograph of Mr. Knuckles having sexual intercourse with two women. The actual identities of the women are unknown.
Following the publication, President Johnson-Sirleaf suspended him from government in connection to a scandal known as ‘Knucklegate’.
Prior to his demise, he held both positions during the administration of Liberia's current President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Mr. Knuckles was widely known for his extraordinary organizing skills, which he put to great use during the two presidential campaigns of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2005 and 2011. These political initiatives led her to victory on both occasions.
A staunch lifelong Methodist, Knuckles also organized fund raising drives for the rebuilding of the Seys United Methodist Church in Careysburg, Montserrado County, first in the mid-2000s, and few years later, the newly renovated church was destroyed by a mysterious fire.
According to the Daily Observer, following his graduation from Cuttington College and Divinity School in the 1967, Willis, though he graduated in Chemistry, began working for the State Department under Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes. Secretary Grimes immediately saw promise in Willis' intellectual and diplomatic skills and sent him to Columbia University, where both Grimes and his Deputy, Ernest Eastman, had studied, to pursue the Master's in International Relations. But Willis left Columbia after a semester and returned home.
The Observer also reported that in the early 1970s,he became the Chief of Staff to Vice President James E. Green, President W.R. Tolbert's first Vice President.
Mr. Knuckles later became Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, under Minister Estrada Bernard--a post he held until the 1980 coup d'etat, when he and his family sought exile in the United States.
Upon his return home in 1982, Willis, an excellent writer in the English language, became managing editor of the Daily Observer newspaper, as well as Liberia correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
He reported forthrightly on many of the troubles which the Daily Observer and others encountered during the regime of Head of State Samuel K. Doe and the People's Redemption Council. When in 1984 the Daily Observer was closed down for the fourth time, Willis flashed a detailed story to the BBC, which was immediately aired. Willis was immediately arrested and imprisoned at the Post Stockade, the maximum security prison.
Following his release months later, Willis, an avid sports enthusiast and energetic individual, took the leadership in reorganizing the Liberia Football Association (LFA).
He is a lifelong member and key organizer of the Old Timers Football Club, with whom he played every Sunday until his recent illness.
He is survived by his loving wife, Mrs. Hawa Sherman Knuckles, two daughters, Hawa Ellen and Ethel Virginia, a son, Willis III, grandchildren, several brothers, including Gabriel Knuckles, a sister, Bushin Knuckles and many other relatives.