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Charles Vert Willie was born on October 8, 1927 in Dallas, Texas. He is a sociologist whose areas of research include desegregation, higher education, public health, race relations, urban community problems, and family life. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Willie attended Morehouse College and graduated in 1948. The following year, he received a master's degree from Atlanta University, and in 1957, he obtained a Ph.D. in sociology at Syracuse University. At Syracuse, Willie served as chair of the Department of Sociology and vice president of the university at a time when African Americans were not holding such positions. He then was hired by Harvard University in 1974, where he is the Charles William Eliot Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education.