April 21, 2016
Justice Don Willett
In addition to serving as a justice since 2005, Willett was named the Tweeter Laureate of Texas in 2015. The position is the first of its kind in the country, with Willett tweeting multiple times a day to more than 33,000 followers. His tweets are an often humorous mix of his life as a native Texan, pop culture references and what The New York Times calls “oblique political commentary.” Willett often mentions his wife, Tiffany, who has worked in the Texas Senate and for the Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates Association, and his three children, whom they call “wee Willetts.”
“We are honored to have Justice Willett address our graduates,” said Texas Tech School of Law Dean Darby Dickerson. “His compelling personal story is an inspiration, and his success in the legal profession will help graduates understand the impact one individual can have.”
Prior to his time on the bench, Willett was a deputy Texas attorney general and chief legal counsel to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott. He also served as deputy assistant attorney general for legal policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he led President George W. Bush’s judicial selection and nominations process.
Willett also served as special assistant to the president in the White House from 2001 to 2002, director of research and special projects for then-Gov. Bush from 1996 to 2000, and as adviser to the 2000 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and transition team. He served as a clerk for Judge Jerre S. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and practiced employment law at Haynes and Boone, LLP while litigating pro bono cases for nonprofit legal foundations.
A former rodeo bull rider and professional drummer, Willett earned a triple-major bachelor of business administration degree at Baylor University before completing his master’s degrees in political science and judicial studies, along with a J.D. degree with honors from Duke University. He has served on several state and national boards, including the Texas Commission on Volunteerism & Community Service, National Fatherhood Initiative, Big Brothers Big Sisters, SafePlace, ConSource, Baylor University’s Honors College, the Harlan Institute and the Texas Lyceum.
His writing has appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Stanford Law and Policy Review and the Texas Review of Law and Politics. Willett has worked as Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and as a non-resident fellow with the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a member of the Forney Hall of Honor and a Life Fellow of the American, Texas and Austin bar foundations.
Willett has received several professional honors, including Jurist of the Year from the Texas Review of Law and Politics, Outstanding Young Alumnus of Baylor University, the Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award, the Faith and Integrity in Legal Services Award, and the Austin Under 40 Award.
The Texas Tech School of Law is a leader among Texas law schools with a 16-year average pass rate of 90 percent on the State Bar Exam.
A small student body, a diverse faculty and a low student-faculty ratio (15.3:1) promotes learning and encourages interaction between students and professors.