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Inventory of the James R. Mills Papers, 1961-1982
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Collections
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: James R. Mills Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1961-1982
    Inventory: See series description.
    Creator: Mills, James R.
    Extent: 3.25 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: James R. Mills, Democrat, was a member of the Assembly from 1961 to 1966 and a member of the Senate from 1967 to 1982. The John J. Mills papers consist of Assembly Bill files from 1961-1982 and photographs, 1973-1974.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please consult California State Archives staff. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], James R. Mills Papers, LP[number]:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The California State Archives received a deed of gift from James R. Mills.

    Processing History

    This collection was processed by staff of the California State Archives over a period of time and described in a finding aid in 2001.


    James R. Mills, Democrat, was a member of the Assembly from 1961 to 1966 and a member of the Senate from 1967 to 1982. As an Assembly Member, he represented the 79th District, which included downtown San Diego, North Park, and East San Diego. As a Senator, he represented the 40th District, which included from 1967 to 1975, parts of Imperial and San Diego counties. After redistricting took effect in 1975, his district was only in San Diego County.
    He was born in San Diego on June 6, 1927. He attended public schools in San Diego. He received a B.A. in Social Studies and an M.A. in History from San Diego State College. He served with United States Army from 1950-1953. On January 9, 1959, he married Joanna Rohrbough. They had three children: Beatrice, William, and Eleanor. He was a teacher and historian. Before his election to the Assembly, he served as the Curator at the Serra Museum.
    He was a member of the San Diego Historical Society, the American Legion, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Southeast San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Maritime Research Society and F. & A.M.. He also served as a contributing editor for San Diego Magazine. He wrote two books on the history of San Diego: San Diego: Where California Began and Historical Landmarks of San Diego County. He also published The Gospel According to Pontius Pilate and Poems of Inspiration from the Masters. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Amtrak from 1980-1982.
    After working as a volunteer for the California Democratic Council, Assembly Member Mills was elected to the State Assembly of California in 1960. After reapportionment opened up new seats in the Senate, he was elected to that chamber in 1966. He served as the Democratic Caucus Chairman, 1970. He was elected President pro Tempore on the Senate in January 1971 and served until January 1981.
    According to the California Legislature at Sacramento (Handbooks), he served on the following committees:

    Assembly, 1961-1966

    Standing Committees
    Constitutional Amendments, 1963-1966
    Engrossment and Enrollment, 1961-1962
    Chair, 1961-1962
    Finance and Insurance, 1963-1966
    Chair, 1963-1964
    Fish and Game, 1961-1964
    Industrial Relations, 1961-1962
    Interstate Cooperation, 1965-1966
    Legislative Representation, 1965-1966
    Chair, 1965-1966
    Rules, 1965-1966
    Chair, 1965-1966
    Social Welfare, 1961-1962
    Transportation and Commerce, 1961-1962
    Ways and Means, 1963
    Joint Committee
    Budget, 1963-1966

    Senate, 1967-1982

    Standing Committees
    Agriculture, 1967-1970
    Elections and Reapportionment, 1967-1968, 1980-1981
    Chair, 1967-1968
    Energy and Public Utilities, 1981-1982
    Governmental Organization, 1970-1974
    Industrial Relations, 1977-1978
    Institutions, 1969
    Insurance and Financial Institutions, 1970
    Natural Resources, 1967-1968
    Public Employment and Retirement, 1977-1978, 1981-1982
    Public Utilities and Corporations, 1971-1974
    Public Utilities, Transit, and Energy, 1975-1976
    Revenue and Taxation, 1969
    Rules, 1971-1980
    Chair, 1971-1980
    Transportation, 1967-1970, 1972-1976, 1979-1982
    Water Resources, 1967-1970
    Vice Chair, 1969-1970
    Joint Committee
    Legislative Audit, 1975-1976
    After Senator Mills left office, he continued to update his history of San Diego on a regular basis. He also published an account of his first five years in Sacramento, The Disorderly House: The Brown-Unruh Years in Sacramento (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1987).

    Scope and Content

    The John J. Mills papers consist of Assembly Bill files from 1961-1982 and photographs, 1973-1974. The bill files illustrate the range of interests that Assembly Member and Senator Mills brought to the Legislature. One interest was the method of governing the Legislature. He was the author of a constitutional amendment approved in 1966 that raised the salaries of members of the Legislature and provided for annual general sessions. He also supported the efforts to create an independent research service for the Legislature. In the same year, he supported ACA 13, calling for major revision of the California Constitution. His interest in effective and efficient government continued through his career. In 1977, for example, his SCR 13 required the Senate to investigate the use of sunset clauses on state agencies to determine whether such forced closures did help stem the growth of California state government. He was also concerned with equal opportunities for all Californians, including such measures as the Rumford Fair Housing Act in 1964.
    He also focused on effective urban transportation; in 1971, his SB 325 was enacted. The Act lowered the state sales tax, included gasoline as a taxable item, and provided for the revenue from this new tax to be set aside for county transportation project. Some of his later efforts to increase the sales tax on gasoline failed (for example SB 100, 1975-1976 session). In the following session, his SB 76 appropriated money for bike paths to be built by state and local governments. As a member of the Senate, in 1974, he was an active supportive of Proposition 5, a Mass Transit Ballot Measure. To demonstrate the need for such measures, he rode his bicycle around the state. He is also credited with providing the needed political measures to create the San Diego Trolley, which began construction in 1979.
    The series of photographs relate to his unsuccessful SB 732 (1973-1974) that would have allowed Amtrak to conduct a pilot program permitting passengers to bring their cars on the Coast Starlight Route between San Diego and Seattle.

    Related Collections

    Selected Publications by James R. Mills

    James R. Mills, A Disorderly House: The Brown-Unruh Years in Sacramento (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1987).
    James R. Mills, "Light Rail Transit in San Diego," New Electric Railway Journal 6:3 (Spring 1994), 22-27.
    James R. Mills, "The San Diego Light Rail Transit Program," Transit Australia 43:3 (March 1988), 43-50.

    Oral History

    An oral history of then Senator Mills was done in 1981 as part of Ronald Reagan Gubernatorial Era Oral History project: James R. Mills, A Philosophical Approach to Legislative and Election Realities, in The Assembly, the State Senate, and the Governor's Office, Oral History Interviews conducted by Gabrielle Morris and Sarah Sharp, Regional Oral History Office, the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California. This volume is available at the California State Archives (OH R-3) and other repositories.

    Other Repositories

    A box of materials and photographs related to the oral history of James R. Mills are on deposit at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.
    The San Diego Historical Society also has three oral histories with James R. Mills:
    James R. Mills interviewed by Robert G. Wright, 28 December 1983, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives, Oral History Program. Tape transcribed (23 pp.). Subjects include: San Diego Historical Society, Maritime Museum Association, Jerry McMullen, and city of La Jolla.
    James R. Mills interviewed by Barbara Held, 23 July 1993, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives, Oral History Program. Tape transcribed (33 pp.). Subjects include: California State Assembly, Campaigns, State Capital building restoration, San Diego Old Town, California State Legislature, and California State Senate.
    A conversation between James R. Mills and Joe Jessop, recorded by F. Bruce Kimball, 1993 July 21, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives. Tape transcribed (47 pp.). Subjects include: Maritime Museum, San Diego water front, Dutch Flats, Shelter Island, San Diego harbor, early aeronautics in San Diego, and Star of India.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been associated with these materials in the Archives' automated public access system (currently in development, November 2003).
    Mills, James R., 1927-
    Urban transportation - California
    California. Legislature - Salaries
    Bicycle trails - California