William Harold Mills, Sr., one of the leading builders in the United States, died at his home in St. Petersburg on Sunday, June 7. He was 98.
In 1946, Mr. Mills founded Mills & Jones Construction Co. Its first job was the multi-million dollar Maas Brothers Department Store in downtown St. Petersburg. Under Mr. Mills' direction, Mills & Jones (and later its wholly-owned subsidiary, Federal Construction Co.) built many of Florida's landmark structures including: Headquarters for Florida Power Corp. in St. Petersburg; Eckerd Drug Co. in Clearwater; The St. Petersburg Times and Poynter Institute for Media Studies buildings in downtown St. Petersburg, The Tampa Tribune headquarters in downtown Tampa, as well as the headquarters for Tampa Electric Co. in Tampa.
Mills & Jones also built the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and the original Busch Gardens in Tampa. The company was responsible for the construction of the first buildings at the now Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. Mills & Jones/Federal Construction Company was the construction manager of the Orlando International Airport (a $300 million plus project). They also constructed important facilities for the Orlando Regional Medical Center, St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, as well as numerous power plants throughout the State for Florida Power Corporation, as well as major projects at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
Under his leadership, Mills & Jones became one of the largest construction firms in Florida and one of the 100 largest in the United States according to Engineering News Record. Mr. Mills' son, William H. Mills, Jr., joined the company in 1964. Mills & Jones then became Federal Construction Company which was sold in 1990 to the British firm Trafalgar House.
In 1991, Mr. Mills then joined his son, William H. Mills, Jr., in founding University Housing Services, which is a major presence in the field of housing for colleges and universities.
Mr. Mills' community contributions are endless. In the late 1940's, he became the chairman of the Port Authority of St. Petersburg, an arm of city government, whose principal objective was to build a bridge to connect Pinellas and Manatee Counties. The Sunshine Skyway was built according to the Port Authority's concept and was completed and opened in September, 1954. Mr. Mills was editorially commended by The St. Petersburg Times for his role in the project and the City of St. Petersburg presented him with a specially engraved Patek-Phillipe gold watch for "meritorious service."
Mr. Mills served as president of the Greater St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and led the formation of the Suncoasters. In 1981, Mr. Mills was named "Mr. Sun" by that organization.
In 1964, Mr. Mills was appointed by Gov. Farris Bryant to the Florida Council of 100, an organization which he was active in for over 30 years.
Mr. Mills has been listed in Who's Who in America as well as many other similar publications.
He was a founding member of the Polywogs, which for many years sponsored the Women's Golf Open in St. Petersburg.
He also served on the boards of the Salvation Army, All Children's Hospital and the Red Cross Disaster Committee.
For 25 years he served on the board of the First National Bank in St. Petersburg and was a director of Florida Federal Savings and Loan Association and of General Telephone Co.
Mr. Mills served on the board of directors of the St. Louis National Baseball Co. (the St. Louis Cardinals).
He was a longtime member and former vestryman of St. Peter's Cathedral and was heavily involved in the development of Suncoast Manor and was past chairman of the board of directors.
Mr. Mills was a past president and oldest member of the Dragon Club, the oldest men's social club in St. Petersburg. He was the founding president of Feather Sound Country Club; a member of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club; the St. Petersburg Bat Boys and Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
William Harold Mills was born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 19, 1911, the son of Charles W. and Mary Ann Parker Mills. When her husband died in 1914, Mary Parker Mills moved her two boys, John, 5 and Bill, 3 to an orange grove she owned north of Plant City. Mr. Mills liked to talk about his growing up in a small community. "Like in most small towns, nearly all the social activity centered around the church," he recalled in his family history. The Mills were Presbyterians and Mr. Mills belonged to the church sponsored Boy Scout troop. He would share stories of camping trips and how his troop was able to make a trip to Cuba. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
When his mother remarried, the family moved to Tampa where Mr. Mills became a member of the first graduating class at Plant High School. He also attended Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry, VA; the University of Florida and in 1930, entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he graduated in June 1934 with a degree in engineering. In 1976, he was awarded the Bronze Beaver Award by the MIT Alumni Association. He also became a member of the MIT Corporation, the governing body of the university. He was the first Floridian to be so honored.
Mr. Mills is survived by his beloved wife of 46 years, Helen Donovan Mills and his children, William H. Mills Jr. (Gigi), St. Petersburg; Susan Mills, Berkeley, CA; Caroline Bridget Mills, Versailles, KY; Mary Mills Andersen, Camiran, France; his sister-in-law, Dorothy Walsh (his wife's identical twin sister) of Pennsylvania; his stepdaughters, Marilyn Guilford (Arthur) Brandon and Janice Cooper, St. Petersburg; his grandchildren, William H. Mills, III (Christi), St. Petersburg; Robert M. Mills (Susan), Atlanta; Leslie Minder (Greg), Tampa,; Travis Wirt, Whitney Wirt, Berkeley, CA; Jennifer Andersen, Atlanta; Thomas A. Guilford (Tamera), Fayetteville, NC; Elizabeth Helen Martinez (Mario), Brandon and Tami Schmidt, St. Petersburg; and great grandchildren: William H. Mills, IV, Jonathan Chase Mills, Robert M. Mills, Jr., Caroline Mills, Olivia Kirkpatrick, Isabella Kirkpatrick, Robert Lloyd, III, Douglas Lloyd, Thomas Shepherd, Thomas A. Guilford, Jr., Taylor Guilford, Carmen Martinez and Max Martinez.
He is also survived by his nephews, John C. Mills, Jr. and Edwin Mills of Tampa and his niece, Stephanie Chapman, also of Tampa.
Mr. Mills was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Willard Mills and Mary Ann Parker Mills and his son, Donald Kensett Mills.
A visitation will be held Wednesday, June 10th from 5 to 7 p.m. at Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. MLK St. N., St. Petersburg.
A funeral will he held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1200 Snell Isle Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg.
Honorary pallbearers will be: Joe Lettelleir, Don Jenkins, Emil Pavone, Hadley Heindel, Tom McLean, John Weatherell, Bill Emerson, Gary Froid, Joe Lucas, Joe Porter, Bill Davenport, Randy Wedding, John Green, Sam Mann and Lee Greene.
Contributions in Mr. Mills Memory may be made to: West Central Florida Council Boy Scouts of America, 11046 Johnson Boulevard, Seminole, FL 33772-1715; or Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.
IN LOVING MEMORY
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