Historic Lebanon Life: James Richard Mills, First African-American Mayor of Lebanon

Authored by John J. Zimkus, Historian and Education Director of the Warren County Historic Society’s Harmon Museum in Lebanon, Ohio. Original article published at www.wchsmuseum.org

James Mills was Lebanon, Ohio’s first African-American mayor. He was born in Lebanon on August 8, 1932. A 1950 graduate of Lebanon High School, he served in the U.S. Army in Korea. He and his wife Loretta had three children. An avid musician, he was active in the Bethel AME Church, where he sang in the choir and acted as church treasurer. He was also a member of the Lebanon Kiwanis Club and the Lebanon Softball Association. For 39 years he worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation. After serving on the planning commission and community development committee, he was elected to the Lebanon City Council in 1993, and became Lebanon’s mayor in 1997, serving in that role until 2001. Mr. Mills died on October 12, 2013. James Mills once said, “Having been born and raised in this city, I have grown to really care about it and all the things that make it what it is today. . . I really want . . . to serve all the citizens of this lovely city.”