Willis and Clara Langley are natives of Washington, N.C. After high school, Willis attended Elizabeth City State University and Clara attended North Carolina Central University. They married in Chocowinity, N.C. and upon Willis’s graduation they moved to Smithfield, N.C. both acquiring jobs in education.
In 1973, Willis decided to change his career path. During the job search, Willis came across a Manager Trainee position at McDonald’s and after several interviews, he was accepted into the Manager Trainee Program. He swiftly climbed the corporate ladder, being promoted from assistant manager, to store manager, to field consultant, and finally Operations manager for Southeast Washington D.C. and South Maryland. After evaluating several potential stores and locations, dreams became a reality in 1986 when Willis and Clara purchased their first McDonald’s restaurant in Columbia, S.C.
They were the first African American couple to purchase a McDonald’s in the city of Columbia. Although S.C. transplants, their thirty-four-year tenure in Columbia has made them seem more like natives. They are faithful members of First Nazareth Baptist church where Willis serves as the Chairman of the Child Development Center and the couple serve on the Deacon and Deaconess Ministry.
Willis is former Vice-Chairman of the Columbia Urban League, former member of Elizabeth City State University Foundation Board, member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, former member of Columbia Rotary Club, Boy Scouts of America Board, and former President of the Greenville Region Black McDonald’s Operators Association. He is currently a member of the Decker Boulevard Coalition Board, National McDonald’s Operators Association, Black McDonald’s Operators Association, and a life member of the NAACP.
Clara serves as a member of the City Center Partnership Committee, the Columbia Urban League Guild, and is a life member of the NAACP. She is a former member of the City of Columbia Park and Recreation Board, Richland Northeast Superintendent Business Advisory Board, Elizabeth City State University Foundation, and the Carillon Holiday Parade Board. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Presented through a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Education and South Carolina ETV.
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