Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Barbara Barbieri McGrath (1953–) Biography - Personal to Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) Biography » Joseph C. Mills Biography - Remained Focused On Education, Became A Reactor Safety Expert, Designed Power Systems For Spacecraft, Spent Nine Years On The Iss

Joseph C. Mills - Remained Focused On Education

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Born on February 26, 1946, in Los Angeles, California, Joseph C. Mills, Jr., grew up in the tough neighborhoods of South Central L.A. His mother, Mildred Craddock Mills (subsequently Lehman), a clerk for the Los Angeles County Marshall's Office, stressed the importance of education for her children's success. Joe's father, Joseph C. Mills, Sr., worked for the U.S. Postal Service for a few years, but was often unemployed. The Mills divorced when Joe was eleven and he and his younger brother and sister were raised by their mother. She kept Joe focused on his education at a time when athletics and friends pulled him in other directions.

In addition to his mother, Joe Mills was strongly influenced by his fourth-grade teacher who recognized his abilities and challenged him in mathematics. He also looked to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as his role model—a man from a humble background who accomplished great feats.

However, for the most part, it was negative experiences that challenged Mills. He attended Los Angeles High School, which was about 70 percent white, and shared his accelerated classes with only one or two other black students. He told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) that during his junior year a school counselor told him: "Sometimes you can keep up with the other students just by working harder." The counselor was implying that, despite being a superior math and science student, Mills lacked innate ability. When he entered the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), a counselor said to him: "Are you really this good?" as he related to CBB. Mills took such negative comments as challenges to succeed.

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