The couple met in the early 1970s at a hospital they worked at on Chicago’s far South Side when Louis cheekily asked the nurse’s aide for a kiss as they were lifting a patient together onto a gurney.
“So I went over to the other side and kissed him on the jaw. And that’s how we started seeing one another,” she said with a laugh.
They married in 1976, but it wasn’t until eight years later that she discovered the connection with the Till case when one of Louis’ aunts mentioned it.
She was shocked but understood that talking about it was painful for him.
“He used to have real nightmares and things,” Juliet Louis said. “All his life it bothered him. When he would talk about it, sometimes tears would be in his eyes.”
Till’s relatives, historians and documentary makers, meanwhile, had been searching for Willie Reed, wondering what had become of him.
A New York filmmaker eventually tracked him to his home in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and later introduced him to Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley.
“She just cried when they took him over there,” Juliet Louis recalled. “They always kept in touch after that.”
Till’s mother died in 2003.
Gradually, Willie Louis began telling his story. On “60 Minutes,” he said Emmett’s screams haunted him.
“I heard this screaming, beating, screaming and beating,” he said. “And I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, man, they’re beating somebody in the barn.’”
Besides his wife, Louis is survived by a stepson, seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.