Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett graduated Baylor in the late 1980s as a triple major. In the time leading up to today, Willett earned a law degree from Duke University and worked at some of the highest levels of federal government. From Waco to the White House, the Texas judge gained experiences that later led him to secure a position on one of the highest benches in state. He has now been a Texas Supreme Court Justice for a solid decade. Judge Willett also serves as the official “Twitter Laureate of Texas” and a board member for the Honors College at Baylor University.
Judge Willett, what made you choose Baylor and what did you study here? What’s your current relationship with the university?
I grew up in Texas, in a Baptist church and I visited Baylor occasionally. It was actually the first college campus I ever stepped foot on. I applied all over the country, and was fortunate to have a range of options, but I knew in my deepest heart that I was destined for Baylor. I had a triple major in economics, finance and public administration. I’m back on campus quite a bit, actually. I’m a member of the board for the Honors College, and every year I take my law clerks — we make a pilgrimage up to Waco to see Judge Ken Starr. I was at the Baylor Law School just recently with the court a few weeks ago.
After graduation you chose to attend Duke Law School, what inspired your legal studies and move to North Carolina?
I did, and Baylor recruited me pretty intensely to stay. But I had never lived more than two hours away from home and I had never spent much time around people who saw the world differently. I knew I would eventually return to Texas to live, work and raise a family, but law school was my last window and opportunity to live in a different part of the nation. I thrived at Baylor and loved every nanosecond, but I wanted to venture off and expand my horizons. Duke was a top-tier school and had a joint-degree program that interested me a lot.
What are some of the highlights of your professional experience?
I am the beneficiary of abundant blessings in my career. One day, I received an offer to be a lawyer and policy advisor in Governor George W. Bush’s office. I did this for four years and then moved to his first presidential campaign. My wife and I transitioned to Washington, D.C., after the victory. Both of us spent two years working in the White House for President Bush. We were there during consequential times, but we had fun as well. Then Greg Abbott invited me back to Austin to work in his Attorney General’s office. That was a ball for two and a half years until I joined the Supreme Court by appointment of Gov. Rick Perry.
What can you tell us about your Twitter account,
A state House member persuaded his colleagues to pass a pretty light-hearted proclamation declaring me the Twitter Laureate of Texas. It’s fairly hysterical, but it was thankfully passed unanimously and even received attention nationally. I think people are astonished a judge can step out from behind the bench and come across as engaging and somewhat interesting. I’ve come to really enjoy it and speak frequently across the country about judicial use of social media.
What advice do you have for Baylor students who want to pursue a similar career to yours?
It’s a magic combination to love what you do and believe that it matters. I would urge students to prayerfully seek out ways to cultivate what they are passionate about. I want people to find fulfillment. Do whatever you do with gladness, gusto and gratitude. Be a professional in the true sense.