Fani Willis (1971- )

Fani Willis in 2023
Fani Willis in 2023
Photo by the Office of Congresswoman Nikema Williams (CC0)

Fani Taifa Willis is the first Black woman to hold the office of District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia. Willis was born on October 27, 1971, in Inglewood, California, and raised by her father, John Clifford Floyd III, in Washington, D.C.

Learning at the feet of her father—a civil rights activist, civil rights defense attorney, and former Black Panther—Willis developed a love of the law and justice early in her life. Her childhood interests led her to study political science at Howard University, where she graduated cum laude in 1993. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University School of Law, graduating in 1996 with a Juris Doctor.

Before becoming nationally and internationally known for the prosecution of Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, Willis laid a firm foundation in Georgia, spending 16 years as a prosecutor in the Fulton County district attorney’s office. During her time as an assistant district attorney and a lead prosecutor, she rocked the state by bringing charges against teachers and administrators in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. Beginning in 2014, twelve educators stood trial accused of inflating student scores on state-administered standardized tests. Eleven were convicted of racketeering under Georgia’s RICO statute in April 2015.

Willis took this controversial triumph into private practice in 2018. The same year, she ran for a seat on the Fulton County Superior Court. She lost, but in 2019, she became chief municipal judge for South Fulton, Georgia. Tenacious and ambitious, in 2020, Willis was elected district attorney for Fulton County, defeating her boss, six-term incumbent Paul Howard Jr.

In her capacity as Fulton County district attorney, which has jurisdiction over 15 cities, including Atlanta, it fell to Willis to decide whether to launch a criminal investigation into one-term president Donald Trump over election tampering when a phone call emerged in which he seemed to demand that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” enough votes to make Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Willis impaneled a grand jury, which came back with an indictment indicating there was sufficient evidence to charge Trump and 18 co-conspirators, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, with 13 RICO violations, including racketeering and conspiracy. Although Willis was not the first to charge the former president with felonies, she has received virulent racist death threats and has even been doxed by Russian entities who support the former president. (Doxing is when a person’s home, work address, and other personal information is released onto the Internet. It is difficult and often impossible to remove.)

In the face of these challenges, in charge of an office with a nearly 90% conviction rate and determined to uphold Georgia laws, Willis has held fast. Married to Fred Willis in 1996, divorced in 2005, Willis has resolutely protected their two daughters and other extended family as Trump supporters and others have attacked her and her office.

At the time of this writing, the trial date for all 19 defendants has not been set, but Fani Willis is projected to make history for prosecuting a former United States president.