Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1926, Jim Mills and his family moved to Santa Barbara in March 1930. He credits his father’s courage in the decision – it was during the Depression and he had no job, just a friend to stay with while he looked for (and found) work – and the city of Santa Barbara can now credit Jim with 80+ years of residency and service to the community. From his early youth he enjoyed hiking around the area and imagining what the community looked like during the times of the Spanish and the Chumash. He entered the workforce as a fireman for the U.S. Forest Service from 1943 – 1944, protecting the lands he had enjoyed. From 1950 to 1960, he served as a fire fighter for Santa Barbara (’50-’54) and Los Angeles (’54-’60). He was trained as a B-29 aerial gunner the same week as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II, so never saw combat. Later, while a Los Angeles fireman he simultaneously enrolled at USC where he earned a doctorate in pharmacy (Pharm.D.). Starting in 1980, he got involved with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation with his interests in conservation and restoration, contributing articles favoring the reconstruction of the Presidio. He later served 3 years as the President of the Board of Directors, for 25 years he served as the chairman of the Trust’s Restoration Committee, dedicated to first being an advocate for the Presidio’s bell-tower and then for its reconstruction. In 1995, he was honored with the Pearl Chase Historic Preservation and Conservation Award, and, after retiring from the Board of Directors in 2005, was designated as a Life Honorary Director in 2006. He and his wife, Alice, are now in their 60th year of marriage.
Above Photo: Jim with interviewer Barbara Lindemann in the Presidio Research Center (March 2012).
Clip 1: Jim describes his serendipitous first encounter with the SBTHP, through articles about the proposed Presidio reconstruction.
Clip 2: Jim explains his original adamant belief in the bell-tower’s existence.
Clip 3: Jim discusses the red tape that makes the SBTHP’s reconstruction and preservation process so difficult, but still worthwhile.
*To hear the entire oral history interview or additional clips, please make an appointment with the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.
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Also Present: Anne Petersen