By Bill Minor
Mike Mills was both an excellent state legislator and a heckuva spinner of yarns in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now he is U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills of Mississippi’s Northern District, and he’s still a great story teller.
We were fortunate enough to have him speak last week at our Common Cause/Mississippi annual banquet and he pulled some stories out of his 2007 book “Twice Told Tombigbee Tales,” which draws heavily upon his beloved Northeast Mississippi. Thankfully, he relates some of the yarns of the real characters in the Legislature (whom I also knew) that he either served with or who just preceded him in the lawmaking body.
It happened that Mills in the 1980s represented one end of Itawamba County and Edwin J. “Jerry” Wilburn, the matchlessly funny gentleman from Mantachie represented the other. Jerry was 20 years Mike’s senior and never let Mills forget it, calling him “little Mills.” Having to ride to Jackson with Jerry down the Natchez Trace cramped into Wilburn’s pickup truck (sometimes crammed also with Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville) was like a circus coming to town. Mills describes Jerry thusly: “Archaism is the use of an old or obsolete form for another. Mr. Wilburn mixes archaism, metonymy and malapropisms all in one phrase.”