Willingham was a politician, a restaurateur, an inventor, a multi-prize winner at barbecue cooking contests, a champion of all things barbecue.
Back in 2009, Willingham spent a memorable afternoon at the Flyer, guiding the staff through the finer points of 'cue for the paper's annual barbecue issue.
From that story:
Willingham preached the gospel of the rib, which has five basic tenets: appearance, aroma, taste, chewability, and memory. On barbecue sauce, Willingham said, "Generally speaking, people cover up that which you love to see — it's like a woman wears a dress." And the congregation (well, some of us), replied, "Amen."
Of barbecue judging, Willingham said, "We wanted to make it formal but with an element of freedom. I believe in the freedom of barbecue."
At the conclusion of the day, Willingham bestowed each of his students with an Order of the Apron certificate, sealed with a greasy, sauce-stained thumbprint.