James Leslie Mills, 81, of McAlester, died Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, at his home.

The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 7 today at Brumley-Mills Funeral Home in McAlester.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of McAlester with Dr. Randall Adams officiating. Burial will be at Memory Gardens Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Brumley-Mills Funeral Home of McAlester.

Born Feb. 23, 1927, in Talihina, he was the son of C. L. and Josephine (Colvard) Mills. He grew up in Wellston.

He served in the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War.

He married Maxine Loretta Simpson in 1947. He attended Central State College in Edmond and then completed his education at the Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science in Dallas, graduating with honors.

He went on to become a very active civic and business leader in McAlester since moving here in 1958, when he purchased the Humphrey Funeral Home.

He was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Mills Corporation, a holding company for 13 funeral homes and a cemetery that he created, nurtured and managed for more than 30 years. He also served a term as mayor of McAlester.

He was a past president of the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association and also served as legislative chairman and he served a term as board member of the International Order of the Golden Rule, an international service organization to funeral homes. He also served on the Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education nine years, two of those years as president, and was instrumental in improving the facilities of the School of Mortuary Science at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

He went on to own a 6,000 acre cattle ranch north of McAlester with his wife. He served a three year term as a member of the board of directors of the International Brangus Breeders Association.

He was a former chairman of the McAlester Industrial Development Committee and past director of the McAlester Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. He was a former president of the McAlester Rotary Club and was a member of the McAlester Investment Group, a group of businessmen whose goal was to help spur economic growth for the McAlester area.

He was a member and deacon of the First Baptist Church of McAlester and also belonged to the Masonic Lodge, McAlester Consistory and the Bedouin Shrine Temple of Muskogee.

He had a real enjoyment of flying and was a licensed pilot of both commercial aircraft and helicopters and was a member of the National Flying Funeral Directors Association.

He was an avid hunter and fisherman and after retiring he and his wife enjoyed traveling in their coach and were members of the Vogue Travel Group.

Survivors include his wife, Maxine Mills, of the home; two daughters, Paulette Barlow, of McAlester, and Lynne Baker, of McAlester; four grandchildren, Natalye Bollinger and her husband, Brad, Dallas, Leslie Barlow, Dallas, Jimmy Baker, of McAlester, and David Baker, of Grove.

Also, two great-grandchildren, Zachary and Mackenzie Bollinger; five sisters and two brothers-in-law, LaVena and Ron Sawyer, of Eufaula, Joyce Gatten, of Norman, Inez and Dean Evans, Longview, Texas, JoAnn Harris, of Oklahoma City, and Darlene Mills, Dallas; one sister-in-law, Brigetta Mills, and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Paula Sue Hall; a brother, Rolf Mills, and a son-in-law, Bob Barlow.

Pallbearers will be Jimmy Baker, David Baker, Mark Harris, Ronnie Evans, Brad Bollinger, Lance Hall, Brent Hall and Matt McGowan.

Honorary pallbearers will be Chester McBee, Bob Wallace, Jim Miller, Noble Miller, Tom Welsh, Brad Fenton, Bill Kinkead and Randell Ward.

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