Willard Wirtz held degrees from Harvard University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Stanford University. He was a member of the law faculty at University of Iowa College of Law from 1937 to 1939. While at Iowa, he served as faculty advisor to the Iowa Law Review.
He served in government, most notably as Secretary of Labor for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. During World War II, he served on the War Labor Board. He also taught law at Northwestern University and University of San Diego. He died in 2010.