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Thomas (Tom) Willey Papers

Identifier: MSS 0575

Scope and Content

The collection is organized into four series in alphabetical order. The majority of the documents in the collection are about Tom Wille's work as Latin American/Caribbean Director at World Relief Corporation, disaster relief, and Cuban and Haitian refugee resettlement cases.

Series 1: Religious organizations (1981-2003) - contains documents about 32 religious' organizations from the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Guyana, Guatemala, and Argentina.

Series 2: World Relief Corporation (1980-2003) - contains documents related to the corporation's work in Cuba, Colombia, Florida, Mexico, Peru, Hong Kong, Indochina, New York, El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, and Poland. It also contains reports from the Miami office, refugee sponsorship information, resettlement cases related to Cuban/Haitian refugees, strategic planning documents, film scripts, and notepads with annotations about meetings, conferences, trips, and daily logs.

The documents about Key West, Florida cover events such as Hurricane Andrew disaster relief and the Cuban rafter ("balseros") crisis in 1994. Other disaster recovery efforts found in this series are the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia in 1985, the southern Peru earthquake in 2001, displaced persons and refugees in El Salvador, Honduras, Hong Kong, and Poland.

Series 3: Articles, clippings, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets (1980-2003) - contains topics related to refugees, Christianity, theology, family, and religious organizations.

Series 4: Correspondence (1981-2002) - contains letters related to World Relief Corporation, disaster relief, church mission travels, meetings, refugees, events, religious organization programs, and general correspondence.


  • Creation: 1980s-2003


Language of Materials

Includes materials written in English, Spanish, and French.


The collection is open for research with some restrictions. Box 10 contains refugee files and is restricted. For more information, please contact the collection curator or processing archivist.

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas (Tom) Willey Jr. was born in High Point, North Carolina on July 13, 1932. In 1937 his family moved to Panama, where Thomas Willey Sr. worked as a missionary. In 1940, his family moved to Cuba to continue working as missionaries until 1960.

Tom Willey received a Bachelor's degree from Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College) in Nashville, Tennessee, and a Master's degree in Bible from Columbia International University, South Carolina.

Tom Willey returned to Cuba in 1956 as an instructor in the Seminario Los Cedros del Líbano in Pinar del Río, Cuba. In 1961 Tom Willey and his family traveled to Costa Rica where he completed a study of Central America to decide another area of work for the Free Will Baptist church. Panama was chosen as the new location, where Tom worked for 14 years as a missionary.

In 1975, he relocated to the United States and worked with different churches in Miami, Fl. In 1977 he worked as a consultant on disaster relief for World Relief Corporation of the National Association of Evangelicals, and in 1980 with the arrival of the "Mariel Boatlift" (Éxodo de Mariel), he was asked by World Relief to open a refugee service office in Miami. Tom Willey served 25 years with World Relief Corporation in various roles as Disaster Relief Consultant, Resettlement/Disaster Relief Director, Interim Hong Kong Director, and Latin America/Caribbean Director.

Tom Willey had two marriages, his first wife Emma Ruth, died of breast cancer in 1972. He and his second wife, Ethel Willey are retired and live in Bronson, FL. They had four children: Anita Kathleen, Thomas Randall, Elsbeth Rene, and Laura Jean.


5.8 Linear Feet (10 Boxes)


The collection documents Tom Willey's work in the United States, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia as the Latin America/Caribbean Director of World Relief Corporation and other religious organizations. The materials include documents, photographs, newspapers, news clippings, articles, magazines, newsletters, pamphlets, and correspondence.


The collection is organized into four series in alphabetical order.


University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Tom Willey in 2020.

Related Materials

World Relief website.

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Records, at Wheaton College Buswell Library Special Collections.


A Guide to the Thomas (Tom) Willey Papers
Finding aid created by Nelissa E. Caraballo-Ramos
October 2021
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America