|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 2nd district
January 3, 1939 – January 3, 1977
|Preceded by||John E. Miller|
|Succeeded by||Jim Guy Tucker|
|Chairman of the United States House Committee on Ways and Means|
January 7, 1958 – December 10, 1974
|Preceded by||Jere Cooper|
|Succeeded by||Al Ullman|
|Born||Wilbur Daigh Mills
May 24, 1909
|Died||May 2, 1992
|Political party||Democratic Party|
Wilbur Daigh Mills (May 24, 1909 – May 2, 1992) was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Arkansas. He was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and briefly a candidate for President of the United States in 1972.
Youth and early political life
Mills was born in Kensett in White County 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 Searcy High School in the county seat of White County. He thereafter graduated from Hendrix College in Conway as salutatorian, having resided in Martin Hall. He studied constitutional law at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts under Felix Frankfurter, who was subsequently nominated and confirmed (1939) as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Mills received his law degree and was admitted to the bar in 1933.
Mills served as the 29th County Judge of White County, between 1935 and 1939, and began a county-funded program, with a $5,000 fund to pay medical bills, prescription drugs which were sold at cost, and hospital treatment for the indigent which were lowered to $2.50 per day, as well as have doctor's see qualified patients free of charge. Patients were qualified for the program through petitioning the local Justice of the Peace, who would in turn make a recommendation to Mills as County Judge.
Ways and Means Committee
Mills served in Congress from 1939 to 1977 and for seventeen years (1958–1974) 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, while also supporting various social programs, especially Social Security and Disability, adding farmers to Social Security, unemployment compensation, and national health insurance.
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, DC 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 injured from a scuffle with Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanne Foxe, a stripper from Argentina. When police approached the car, Foxe leapt from the car and jumped into the nearby Tidal Basin 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 the Palm Beach Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Thereafter, he practiced law at the prestigious Shea and Gould Law Firm of New York's Washington Office, until he retired in 1991 and moved back to Arkansas to work on the establishment of the Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center for Alcoholism, the University of Arkansas Medical School's Wilbur D. Mills Endowed Chairs on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and the Masonic Grand Lodge's fundraising campaign.
Wilbur Mills died in Searcy, Arkansas in 1992.
Various schools, highways, and other structures in Arkansas are named for Mills:
- 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 Campgrounds, Tichnor, 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
- Wilbur D. Mills Courts Building, Searcy, Arkansas
- Wilbur D. Mills Library, Arkansas School for the Deaf, Little Rock, 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
- . (December 19, 1957). "Economic statesman; Wilbur Daigh Mills". The New York Times. p. 22.
. (December 19, 1957). "Jere Cooper dead; a leader in House. Tennessee Democrat was Ways and Means chairman—first elected in 1928". The New York Times. p. 31.
Lyons, Richard D. (December 11, 1974). "Mills quits as chairman; young Democrats advance". The New York Times. p. 1.
- "ISSUES: McGovernomics: A More Modest Proposal". Time. September 11, 1972.
- Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 275. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
- "Mills arrival puts spotlight on Palm Beach Institute". The Palm Beach Post. 1975-03-01. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- "Wilbur Mills, Long a Power In Congress, Is Dead at 82". New York Times.
MR. CHAIRMAN: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF WILBUR D. MILLS, written by Kay Collett Goss, professor, author, and a state and federal official under the William Jefferson Clinton administrations in Arkansas and nationally, and published by Parkhurst Publishers, 2013.
- Wilbur Mills at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Time Magazine Cover
- Wilbur Mills at Find a Grave
- Oral History Interviews with Wilbur Mills, from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
- Wilbur Mills materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)
|United States House of Representatives|
John E. Miller
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 2nd congressional district
Jim Guy Tucker