Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

An Easterner who grew up in Brooklyn and was, for a while, a professional ice skater at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, Mills chose journalism as a career. In 1956 he stopped impulsively at the newspaper in Gallup and was hired as managing editor. From then on he remained in New Mexico, and became its best-known, reporter.

When the Vietnam War was becoming increasingly unpopular back home, Mills paid his own way over there, not to dutifully support the U.S. government but to report on the "little people" from New Mexico caught up in the war. When the most murderous prison riot in American history erupted at the state penitentiary in Santa Fe in 1980, enraged convicts refused to negotiate with politicians or other officials, whom they did not trust, but asked for Mills, whom they did. At risk of his life he went inside, and won the release of prison guards who were being held hostage. Then he went back to work.

After recovering from a potentially fatal case of melanoma, Mills became a spokesman for the New Mexico Cancer Society. Always down-to-earth despite his fame, Mills kept grinding out his radio and television programs until the end, always ready to speak out for the "skinny cats." With his death, New Mexico’s most prominent voice was stifled.

Story by Richard McCord