Obituary for Samuel Wilson Mills
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Samuel Wilson Mills, a gifted poet who enthralled audiences for four decades, passed away Friday, January 29, 2021 at Seasons Hospice in Detroit, age 65. He was born on Sept. 11, 1955 in Mt. Clemens to M. Virginia and Jewell Mills, both public school teachers.

Sam proved an eager progressive activist, starting the student newspaper at Eisenhower High School in the Utica Community School District. During the Vietnam War, as Student Council President, he refused to meet with President Richard Nixon. He achieved conscientious objector status following a successful appeal to his Regional Draft Board.

Sam began college at Grand Valley State College (now University) for a year, before transferring to Michigan State University, where he majored in English, edited the Red Cedar Review and graduated in 1978. 

Sam had two great superpowers—making friends and writing poetry. He quickly immersed himself in the dynamic, multi-disciplinary arts scene in the Greater Lansing Area, where he met fellow poets Rosa Maria Arenas and Lee Upton. They rented a house together, dubbed “The Surf City Convent,” which lives on in memory as the site of “Radical Dance Therapy” and the first “No Guilt Art Party.” Subsequently, he worked with The Felipe X Trilce Revue, the band Trainable, and the Old Town Poetry Series. In 1993, he founded, coordinated and served as the hilarious “Emcee d’Amour” for the wildly popular Burning Desires: Afternoon of Love Poetry, now an annual Valentine’s tradition in Lansing’s Old Town.

Sam published three collections of poetry: A Long Drink (1975), Burning the Stratocaster (1992), and Four Against the Wall (2005).

In his later life, Sam became a skilled street photographer in Detroit, taking compelling photos of people he met all over the city. He forged a professional career writing for EDS, Compuware, and Message Makers.

Sam was preceded in death by his parents, Jewell and Virginia, his brother Ed, and his long-time partner, Anita Poe. Survivors include brother Martin Mills (Lilah), nephew Jacob Mills, and innumerable friends scattered across the country.

A memorial service will be scheduled at some time after the pandemic.


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