JUNE 30, 1964


Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Mills’ Lakota name means “Loves His Country.”  Orphaned at 12, Billy attended University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship.  He was a U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant when he entered the 10,000-meter run at the 1964 Olympics.  An unknown, Mills’ victory is one of the greatest Olympic upsets.  He not only set the Olympic record, but beat his own best by 50 seconds!  No American since has won the 10,000-meter race.  Mills later set records for the 10,000-meter and the 3 and 6-mile runs.  Co-founder of a nonprofit group, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Mills was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (1984).  He received the Presidential Citizens Medal for his work with Running Strong for American Indian Youth (2012), the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award (2014), and the President’s Council Lifetime Achievement Award (2015).  In October 2018, he joined the first class of inductees into the National Native American Hall of Fame.

Sources:  “Billy Mills to receive NCAA’s 2014 Theodore Roosevelt Award,” NCAA, 12/6/2013.  Retrieved 7/4/2019,  https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/billy-mills-receive-ncaa’s-2014-theodore-roosevelt-award Debra Krol, "National Native American Hall of Fame names first twelve historic inductees,” IndianCountryToday.com, 10/22/2018.  Retrieved 7/4/2019, https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/national-native-american-hall-of-fame-names-first-twelve-historic-inductees-e-Uu9NZBh0K9TPrv992tyQ/
Photo:  U.S. Marine Corps, 10/14/1964.  Public Domain.  Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code