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Wilbur Daigh Mills (May 24, 1909 – May 2, 1992), was a powerful Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Arkansasmarker. He was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1960s, and briefly a candidate for President of the United States in 1972.

Youth and early political life

Mills was born in Kensettmarker in White Countymarker to Abbie Lois Daigh Mills and Ardra Pickens Mills. Kensett was the first public school in Arkansas to integrate, under Mills' father who was first superintendent and then chairman of the school board and the banker for the school district. Mills attended public schools in Kensett but graduated as valedictorian from Searcymarker High School in the county seat of Searcy. He thereafter graduated from Hendrix Collegemarker in Conwaymarker as salutatorian. He studied constitutional law at Harvard Universitymarker in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker, under Felix Frankfurter, who was subsequently nominated and confirmed (1939) as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Courtmarker. Mills was admitted to the bar in 1933.

Mills served as the 29th County Judge of White County, between 1935 and 1938, and began a county-funded program to pay medical bills, prescription drugs, and hospital treatment for the indigent.

In Congress

Ways and Means Committee

Mills served in Congress from 1939 to 1977 and for eighteen years (1957-1975) was the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a post he held longer than any other person in U.S. history. Mills was often termed "the most powerful man in Washington" during his tenure.

His accomplishments in Congress included playing a large role in the creation of the Medicare program. Mills initially had reservations about the program because he was worried about the eventual cost, but eventually shepherded it through Congress and had a large hand in shaping its program. Mills was also acknowledged as the primary tax expert in the Congress and the leading architect of the Tax Reform Act of 1969. Mills favored a conservative fiscal approach, adequate tax revenue to fund government programs, a balanced budget, and also supported various social programs, especially Social Security Disability, adding farmers to Social Security, unemployment compensation, and national health insurance.

Presidential candidate

Mills was drafted by friends and fellow Congressmen to make himself available as a candidate for President of the United States in 1972 in a few of the Democratic primaries. To position himself to appeal to senior citizens during the 1972 presidential campaign, Mills championed the automatic Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) to Social Security. He was not strong in the primaries and won 33 votes for president from the delegates at the 1972 Democratic National Convention which nominated Senator George McGovern. His name was mentioned as a possible Secretary of Treasury in a McGovern administration, but McGovern's resounding defeat by President Richard Nixon made this moot.

Scandal and retirement

Mills was involved in a traffic incident in Washington, DCmarker at 2 a.m. on October 9, 1974. His car was stopped by U.S. Park Police late at night because the driver had not turned on the lights. Mills was intoxicated, and his face was cut from a scuffle with Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanne Foxe, a stripper from Argentinamarker. When police approached the car, Foxe leapt from the car and jumped into the nearby Tidal Basinmarker in an attempt to escape. She was taken to St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital for treatment.

Despite the scandal, Mills was re-elected to Congress in November 1974 in a heavily Democratic year with nearly 60% of the vote, defeating Republican Judy Petty. On November 30, 1974, Mills, seemingly drunk, was accompanied by Fanne Foxe's husband onstage at The Pilgrim Theatre in Boston, a burlesque house where Foxe was performing. He held a press conference from Foxe's dressing room. Soon after this second public incident, Mills stepped down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged his alcoholism, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and checked himself into Palm Beach Institute at West Palm Beachmarker. He did not seek re-election in 1976, devoted his time to counseling individual alcoholics, and raising funds for alcoholic treatment centers, including one founded in his honor at Searcy, Arkansasmarker, the Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center for Alcohol and Drugs. He also became affiliated as of counsel with Washington office of the New Yorkmarker political powerhouse law firm Shea & Gould. He was succeeded by Jim Guy Tucker.

Wilbur Mills died in Searcy. He is buried at Kensett Cemetery in Kensett.

Various schools, highways, and other structures in Arkansasmarker are named for Mills:

See also

  • Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School in Sweet Home, Pulaski County, Arkansas
  • Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Searcy, Arkansas
  • Wilbur D. Mills Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River in Desha County, Arkansas
  • Wilbur D. Mills Freeway in Little Rock, Arkansas (Interstate 630)
  • Wilbur D. Mills Avenue in Kensett, Arkansas
  • Wilbur D. Mills Park in Bryant, Arkansas
  • Wilbur D. Mills Building, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas
  • Two Wilbur D. Mills Endowed Chairs on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, University of *Arkansas Medical Science Campus
  • Wilbur D. Mills Education Services Cooperative, Beebe, Arkansas
  • Mills Park Road, Bryant, Arkansas
  • Mills Street, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Sculptures of Mills are located at:
  • Arkansas State Capitol
  • Hendrix College, Mills Building, Mills Congressional Office Replica
  • Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School, Sweet Home, Arkansas
  • Wilbur Mills Treatment Center, Searcy, Arkansas
  • Boswell Law Office, Bryant, Arkansas
  • Kay Goss Office, Alexandria, Virginia
  • John F. Kennedy Park, Greers Ferry Lock and Dam, Heber Springs, Arkansas


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