Illinois College mourns dedicated trustee emeritus


Illinois College trustee emeritus, Judge Richard H. Mills ’51 H’03, died Sunday, July 16, at the age of 93.

Judge Richard Mills
 Judge Richard H. Mills ’51 H’03

Mills was born in Beardstown and grew up in Jacksonville, staying close to home to attend Illinois College. He was a debater and orator, and a member of Phi Alpha Literary Society. He stayed connected to his alma mater throughout his life, serving on the Illinois College Board of Trustees from 1986 to 2002. He also served as an Alumni Trustee from 1978 to 1983, received the Distinguished Service Award by the Alumni Association in 1976 and was selected as Homecoming Parade Marshal in 2012. In 2007, he established the Judge Richard Mills Endowed Scholarship to support IC students with career ambitions to practice law.

Reflecting on the august legacy of Judge Mills, Illinois College Board of Trustees Chair Steven R. Mills ’77 said, “Nearly 200 years ago, the founders of Illinois College envisioned a community committed to the highest standards of scholarship and integrity in the liberal arts and that the College would develop in its students the qualities of mind and character needed for fulfilling lives of leadership and service. Judge Mills was the embodiment of these ideals. His life of leadership and service — to his community, his state, his country and to his alma mater — is inspiring and a wonderful example of an IC graduate who has indeed made a difference in this world.” He added, “ Judge Mills and I are not related, though we share a last name. However, from our very first meeting, we declared ourselves ‘cousins,’ and we greeted each other as such for the past 25 years. I will miss the Judge’s wit, wisdom and charm. Godspeed, my cousin and my friend.”

Mills earned a Juris Doctor degree from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and a Master of Laws from the University of Virginia. After being admitted to the bar, Mills went on to a long career as an attorney and judge, most recently serving as a United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois from 1985 until his retirement in September 2022.

Prior to his 37-year appointment as a district judge, Mills practiced law in Virginia and served as a public defender and Cass County state’s attorney before being elected circuit judge in the 8th Judicial Circuit of Illinois in 1966. He was later elected to the Appellate Court of Illinois, where he served nine years and was twice Presiding Justice.

Mills proudly followed in family footsteps in both service to the law and in the United States armed forces. He retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army after a 33-year career in active and reserve duty. He received a Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War, as well as Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Korean Service Medal with Battle Star, and both U.S. and Korean President Unit Citations. Mills was also appointed to serve as a major general in the Illinois Militia.

Judge Mills was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Rachel Keagle Mills. The couple married in 1962 and had two sons, Jon and Daniel. He is also survived by three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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