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William Oswald Mills

William Oswald "Bill" Mills, Sr. (August 12, 1924 – May 24, 1973), was a Republican U.S. congressman who represented the 1st Congressional district of Maryland from May 25, 1971 until he his death in Easton, Maryland on May 24, 1973.

William Oswald Mills, Sr.
William Oswald Mills.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 1st district
In office
May 25, 1971 – May 24, 1973
Preceded byRogers Morton
Succeeded byRobert Bauman
Personal details
Born(1924-08-12)August 12, 1924
Bethlehem, Maryland
DiedMay 24, 1973(1973-05-24) (aged 48)
Easton, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic (before 1970)
Republican (1970–1973)
Spouse(s)Norma Lee Nichols

Life and careerEdit

U.S. Congressman, Bill Mills was born in the small town of Bethlehem, Maryland on August 12, 1924. He attended Caroline County, Maryland public schools, after graduating from Federalsburg High School in 1941, he then pursued military service. He served in the U.S. Army in 1942, during World War II, as part of general George Patton's Third Army during the crossing of the Rhine River in Germany and was awarded the Bronze Star. After the war, he worked his way up in rank as the manager of the offices of: Easton, Maryland; Preston, Maryland; and Cambridge, Maryland of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company from 1946 to 1962. Beginning in 1962, he served on the staff of then-congressman Rogers Morton as a Democrat until finally becoming a Republican in 1970. When Morton was nominated by U.S. President, Richard Nixon and appointed United States Secretary of the Interior in 1971, Mills won the special election to succeed him as U.S. House Representative of Maryland's 1st District of the 93rd United States Congress.[1][2][3]


On the morning of May 24, 1973, Mills was found dead at a stable near his home in Easton, Maryland at the age of 48. There was an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the left side of his chest, and a 12-gauge shotgun and spent casing were found by his side.[4]

It was reported that he had been depressed following the death of three of his Congressional aides in a 1972 car accident, and by the fact that his mentor and predecessor, Rogers Morton, was suffering from cancer.[4] However, five days before his death, it was revealed that Mills had received an undisclosed $25,000 gift from the finance committee of President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign during the 1971 special election. Overall, it was part of $900,000 in unaccounted donations made by the committee, according to the Government Accountability Office. If Mills were convicted of conducting illegal activity, he could have faced a $1,000 fine and one year in prison.[5]

While Mills initially stated that he had done nothing wrong, he began worrying that the campaign contribution would destroy his political career.[5] In one of his suicide notes, Mills stated that he could not prove his innocence and saw suicide as the only solution.[4] Overall, Mills produced at least seven notes, including one to his son warning him to be honest and another to his constituents.[5]

Despite his concern, Maryland authorities claimed soon after his death that he may not have broken the new state campaign finance law, which did not come into full effect until July 1971, two months after his special election.[4] In fact, there were no indications that state authorities were even going to pursue an investigation.[5]

He is buried at the Hillcrest Cemetery, in Federalsburg, Maryland.


"WASHINGTON, May 24 Representative William O. Mills of Maryland, a Republican whose 1971 special election was aided by an unreported cash transfer of $25,000 from the Nixon campaign committee, was found shot to death this morning, and the authorities called his death an apparent suicide. Mr. Mills, a 48‐year‐old former telephone company executive on Maryland's Eastern Shore, was found near his home in Easton, Md., at 7:05 A.M., dead of a single 12‐gauge shotgun wound in the left side of his chest. The automatic gun and a single spent shell were at his side and Talbot County State's Attorney William S. Horne said, “It appears that the cause of death was a selfinflicted gunshot wound in the chest.” State authorities reported that Mr. Mills had left at least seven notes, including one found on his body in an Easton barn where he stabled his horses. One official said that in the notes, Mr. Mills said “he had done nothing wrong but said he couldn't prove it, and so there was no other way out.” Mr. Mills was reported to have had no serious domestic or personal problems. But one former associate said that he had been “depressed” since the death in an automobile accident in 1972 of three of his Congressional aides, including his former campaign treasurer, Col. James L. Webster. ‘Mood’ Was Affected The announcement early this year that Mr. Mills's political mentor and predecessor in the Eastern Shore House seat, Secretary of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton, was suffering from cancer was also said to have “affected his mood.” The apparent suicide followed by five days the disclosure by the General Accounting office that Mr. Mills's 1971 campaign was aided by an unreported $25,000 cash transfer from the Finance Committee to Re‐elect the President. The Washington Post reported yesterday that neither Mr. Mills nor his 1971 campaign treasurer, who has since died, had reported receiving the funds under Maryland's state campaign finance law. The Post said 24 hours before the Mills shooting that this was “in apparent violation of state law.” But Willard Morris, the Maryland administrator of election laws, said in Annapolis today that there may have been no state violation. The Mills election in 1971 was in May, and Mr. Morris, said that he was checking to see whether the $25,000 transaction might have been exempt, from Maryland disclosure requirements then in effect. The Maryland law was amended in July, 1971, to require fuller reporting, he said. Mr. Mills ran in a special election that year in Maryland's First Congressional District for the seat then being vacated by Mr. Morton. Mr. Mills was successful in that election and was re‐elected in 1972. Talking to newsmen today, Mr. Morton readily acknowledged that he had “initiated” the “perfectly proper and above‐board” $25,000 transfer to Mr. Mills's campaign." By vacating the First District seat in a nonelection year, Mr. Morton said, he left his former administrative assistant in a financial vacuum, with no local funds accumulated for Republican House campaign. So, Mr. Morton said, he sought‐national Republican help. He asked former Attorney General John N. Mitchell if the re‐election committee would grant a “loan” to Mr. Mills, Mr. Mills also received outright pay ments — reported in Maryland election records — of $5,000 and $2,000 from other national Republican campaign committees supporting members of Congress, apparently through Mr. Morton's intercession. The $25,000 “loan” — a word that a Morton aide said later today the Secretary had “used loosely"—was never intended to be repaid in cash. Mr. Morton said that he had agreed with Mr. Mitchell to “repay” it by making extra fund‐raising speaking appearances for the Nixon campaign in 1972 and also by soliciting wealthy friends to make larger‐than. usual contributions. Reconstructing the shooting, Maryland authorities said that Mr. Mills drove early this morning to the nearby stable from his home in the center of Easton. Shot Was Heard According to the police, shot was heard at about A.M. by Walter R. Soulsman, a caretaker at the Mullberry Hill Farm Stables where Mr. Mills kept his horses and where he frequently made early morning visits. Mr. Soulsman found Mr. Mills moments later lying face up near the barn door, the police said, and Mr. Mills was pronounced dead at Easton Memorial Hospital at 7:55 A.M. The House of Representatives recessed later in the day in respect for Mr. Mills. He was a native of Bethlehem, Md., small Eastern Shore community, and a combat veteran of the Army ii World War II. After the war, he managed small Eastern Shore offices for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. before joining Mr. Morton's Congressional staff in 1962. Mr. Mills was an Elk and Rotarian. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Norma Lee Mills; a daughter, Mrs. Lawrence Haley, 24, and a son, William 0, Mills Jr., 16, all of Easton."[6]


Mills was survived by his wife, Norma Lee Nichols Mills, a 70-year-old daughter, Mrs. Lawrence Haley, and a 62-year-old son, William O. Mills, Jr.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ United States Congress. "William Oswald Mills (id: M000779)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  2. ^ Ralph Nader Congress Project. Citizens Look at Congress: William O. Mills, Republican Representative from Maryland. Washington, D. C.: Grossman Publishers, 1972.
  3. ^ Memorial Services, Held in the House of Representatives and Senate of the ...By United States. 93d Congress, 1st session, 1973, United States. Congress
  4. ^ a b c d e Franklin, Ben A (May 25, 1973). "A House Member Apparent Suicide". The New York Times. p. 73.
  5. ^ a b c d "Death of a Jovial Guy". Time Magazine. June 4, 1973.
  6. ^ A HOUSE EMBER APPARENT SUICIDE By Ben A. Franklin Special to The New York Times/May 25, 1973
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Rogers Morton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 1st congressional district

1971 – 1973
Succeeded by
Robert Bauman