By Daniel Brunty
The Webster Progress-Times
Many residents of Webster County who are familiar with insurance are familiar with Terry Wills.
A dedicated agent with Webster County Farm Bureau for 40 years, he is retiring as agency manager. With his time served at Farm Bureau, Wills looks to wrap up his illustrious career and service to the residents of Webster County this Friday. He will be honored during a retirement reception from 3-6 p.m. tomorrow at the Farm Bureau office at 1137 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
With Wills being a longtime pillar of the Webster County community, many may not know that he was born and raised in Choctaw County. After attending and graduating from Weir High School in 1966, Wills went on to Holmes Junior College. During this time he would meet his future wife, Betty, in Webster County.
Next for Wills was a brief stint with the Armed Forces. “I spent a little time with Uncle Sam,” he said. “Uncle Sam wanted me to go to one of these Special Forces schools. But he messed up and gave me a one-way ticket home, and I had finished up my obligation so I never went back.”
Upon his return, Wills continued his college career. “When I got back here I went over to Mississippi State and started school,” he said. “I finished there in May of 1972. I majored in agricultural economics.”
Up next for Wills was his initial start in the insurance business. “In July of 1973 I started working at Farm Bureau,” Wills said. “I actually started at the first of the month, but I had to do some training and get licensed and all that before they let me sign a contract. So I didn’t sign my contract until the 26th of ’73.
Wills recalled his feelings of being a young man fresh out of college. “I remember when I first started working I thought, ‘Gosh man, I just turned 25, I could stay with this outfit 30 years and retire,’” he said. “The thing that is so significant about that is I remember my feeling then, ‘Gosh, 30 years, that is a long time.’ Well, I went past those 30 years 10 years ago. I still have trouble with the thought ‘What in the heck did I do with 40 years?’ I will have finished up 40 years of service on July 26 of this year.”
Wills has not spent all 40 of his years working in Webster County. “I went from here (Eupora) four years later to Choctaw County, opened the first office that they ever had,” he said. “That was in July of 1977. In August of 1981, the guy that hired me was the manager in Webster County (and he) passed away. One thing led to another, and in October of 1981 I came back to Webster County.”
Wills’ dedication and service to his customers has paid off enormously for Farm Bureau as a company. “When I came here, I am going to say the premium here was like maybe a half a million dollars for the whole thing,” Wills said. “And today, last time I looked it was a little bit over $3.3 million. And that’s just with Farm Bureau. Back then we only wrote with Farm Bureau. But now we write for a lot of other companies.”
Wills’ connections to the community have also helped him over the years in spreading the business of Farm Bureau in both areas. “In Webster County I feel as much as home as I do in Choctaw County mainly because a lot of my friends were here,” he said. “Because as a kid when the weekend came, I would be running around with just as many guys from Webster as I would be from Choctaw.”
After enjoying so much success in business, Wills is grateful for the many opportunities that it has provided him and his family.
“I have been able to do a lot of things and do some traveling with the insurance industry that I never would have had any opportunity to do,” he said. “Insurance companies love contests; occasionally I would win one. We have been to Disney World at least twice, as well as all over the state of Florida. My wife and I even went on a trip to London, England, in 2004 that I won with the company. Like I said, it has been good to me.”
After 40 years of work, one would think that a simple, laid-back retirement would be due them. Wills stated that he didn’t plan to stop.
“I pastor a church out in Stewart, Union Baptist Church,” he said. “And we also have some rental properties here in town. My wife and my family have farms that we take care of. Right now I am enrolled online with a program working on a degree in Biblical Studies. Who knows what comes down the road when you are 65 years old. But my plans are, if my health holds up, is to continue the ministry and possibly get a master’s degree from the seminary.”
Wills will be missed dearly by his co-workers and those who have worked with him over the years. His co-workers state he loved his work, and was the cornerstone of Farm Bureau.
Co-worker and friend Jim Tidwell knows that the company will be losing someone special when Wills retires. “He grew this from almost nothing to what it is now, which is a pretty strong presence in the county,” Tidwell said. “Terry Wills is synonymous with Farm Bureau in Webster County. They are one and the same to a lot of people. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty many times.”
Terry and Betty Wills, who live on Center Road, have two daughters, Laura Lisa and Laterran, and two grandchildren.
Wills thanked Webster County and all its residents for making his 40 years a wonderful experience at Farm Bureau.
“The Good Lord and the insurance business have blessed me more than I expected,” he said. “As far as having any advice for someone wanting to be in this business — get in it and work hard and it will be good to you.”