Billy G. Mills
Billy G. Mills (born 1929) is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge and a former Los Angeles City Council member, serving from 1963 to 1974. He was one of the first three African-Americans elected to the council.
Mills was born on November 19, 1929, in Waco, Texas, the son of Roosevelt Mills of Marshall, Texas, and Jenye Vive Mills, also of Texas. He went to A.J. Moore High School in Waco, where he was captain and quarterback of the football team. A member of the debate and declamation squad, he was named "Most Outstanding Student" in 1947. He moved to California after graduation and then received an associate in arts degree from Compton College and a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in 1951. While an undergraduate, he joined the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He earned a law degree from UCLA in 1954, spent a year working at Douglas Aircraft and then was in the Army until 1957; he was assigned to legal duties in Japan. After his discharge, he became a deputy county probation officer, and in 1960 began to practice law. He ran unsuccessfully for a municipal judgeship in 1962.
He was married on June 20, 1953, to Rubye Maurine Jackson of Texarkana, Texas. They had twin daughters, Karen and Karol, and three sons, Wiliam Karl, John Stewart and James Edward. In 1966 they were living at 3621 Third Avenue in the Jefferson Park district.
Mills was elected to Los Angeles City Council District 8 in 1963, succeeding Gordon Hahn. After the election, he noted that the "cheek has turned and now Caucasians will realize that you don't have to be white to represent whites."
He and Tom Bradley were the next two blacks to serve on the Los Angeles City Council, after Gilbert Lindsay, who had been appointed in the 9th District in 1962. Lindsay was elected in his own right in 1964, so the three were the first blacks to be elected to the City Council. All three were reelected in 1967 and 1971.
- Yorty. Even though Mills had supported Mayor Sam Yorty in the 1965 election against James Roosevelt, once Mills was elected, Yorty "bitterly assailed" the new councilman's spending on new furnishings for his City Hall and district offices. The mayor turned down Mills' "latest request—$126 for a 'reverse' telephone directory." Mills replied that his offices had been neglected in the past and there was some "catching up" to do. After Yorty vetoed additional expenditures for Mills's office three months later, Mills said of the mayor: "After many years of public office, his prejudices are beginning to show. This man's sanity is . . . in question."
- Police. In April 1964 Mills maintained that he had been stopped by the police seventeen times since the preceding July because he was "spotted driving a city car at night." He declined to label the incidents as "mistreatment." Mayor Yorty said he thought that Mills's statement was "exaggerated" and that it was not factual, adding: "If he was stopped once I'd be surprised."
On Wednesday evening, August 11, 1965, a large-scale civil disturbance broke out in the Watts district of Los Angeles and spread within a few days to other parts of the city. Thirty -four people were killed, 1,032 injured, and 3,438 arrested. It was the most severe riot in the city's history to that time. Mills called a meeting of community and "indigenous" leaders in the City Council chambers on Saturday morning "to hear comments from anyone connected with the disturbances so city officials can begin getting at the causes of the riots." Staff writer Paul Beck of the Los Angeles Times, reported:
Mills' decision to hold the meeting came in the face of warnings from other councilmen that it could cause serious problems and do no good in calming those involved. . . . "I can imagine the drapes being torn down and the furniture slashed," said Councilman John C. Holland."
Mills demanded an investigation of the role of the Los Angeles Police Department in the riots and asked Mayor Yorty to issue an executive order that would prevent Chief William H. Parker and other department heads from making public statements without clearing them first with the mayor or appropriate governing boards. He said the Los Angeles police were "rendered totally inept" after the rioting had started.
On September 8, 1965, Mills "directed" Chief Parker to appear before him "in person" to explain a raid on a Black Muslim mosque the preceding August 18, in which nineteen people were arrested and all were freed by a judge, citing lack of evidence. Parker declined to comply. Mills' action, according to a news report, was "in keeping with his persistent opposition to the chief." Mills was the only council member who did not vote in favor of a council resolution commending Parker and the department for their work during the disturbances. He said he would have voted in favor if the resolution had it not named Parker and had it not "excused" the police for all their actions.
The councilman said he had information that the mosque raid was "deliberately provoked" by false phone calls that Negroes were carrying guns into the building. He was critical of heavy police gunfire and claimed that the officers "were trying to destroy" two buildings on the property. Deputy Police Chief Thomas Reddin responded that "large-scale force was necessary to overcome large-scale resistance." Mills later submitted a report suggesting that a fire set inside the mosque could have been done by police as an act of "hostility."
Mills was critical of the coroner's inquests that were held after the riots. He said they were "attempts to justify the shooting of elderly citizens, unarmed youths and innocent bystanders." Twenty-six of the riot deaths were ruled justifiable homicide, one was accidental and five were criminal.
By a three-vote margin, Mills in 1966 was elected the first black chairman of the Democratic County Central Committee over fellow Councilman Tom Bradley, also an African American. After the vote, Mills called for the defeat of former movie star and television actor Ronald Reagan, who was running for governor as a Republican.
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On April 3, 1974, Governor Reagan appointed Mills to the Superior Court bench, effective immediately. Mills said he had never supported Reagan politically but had been "on friendly terms with him for years" and that Reagan had appointed him to the California Council on Criminal Justice in 1972. Mills did support President Richard M. Nixon during the 1972 campaign. Mills had been suggested for the Superior Court position by the black caucus in the California Legislature.
Access to some Los Angeles Times links may require the use of a library card.
- Southern Campus. Los Angeles, CA: University of California. 1951. p. 82.
- Los Angeles Public Library reference file
- "10 More Aspirants File for Bench in June Vote," Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1962, page B-2
- Location of the Mills household in Jefferson Park
- Ruben Salazar, " 'Cheek Turned,' Says New City Councilman," Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1963, page A-1
- "Paper Backing Yorty Halted by Court Order," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1965, page B-1
- "Yorty Assails Councilman on Office Costs," Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1963, page A-10
- Erwin Baker, "Indignant Councilman Doubts Yorty's Sanity," Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1964, page 3
- Erwin Baker, "Yorty Strongly Backs Police Actions in Southside Clashes,": Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1964, page A-1
- Paul Beck, "Mills Asks Leaders of Riot Areas to City Hall," Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1965, page 12
- Harry Trimborn, "CHP Riot Probe," Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1965, page 27
- Erwin Baker, "Mills Tells Parker to Explain Raid," Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1965, page 3
- Erwin Baker, "Bullhorn Used in Riot Called Tool of Police," Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1965, page 3
- Erwin Baker, "Police May Have Set Muslim Fire, Mills Suggests," Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1965, page A=1
- " 'White Wash' Charged in Inquests on Riot," Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1965, page 15
- Richard Bergholz, "1st Negro Chosen Head of County Democratic Unit," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1966, page 3
- Richard West, "Reagan Picks Councilman Mills for Vacancy on Superior Court," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1974, page C-1
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Robert C. Farrell