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Okey Mills

Sheriff Okey Austin Mills (March 7. 1915-January 5, 2001) was born near Sweeneyburg, Raleigh County, and attended schools in Pemberton, Stotesbury, and Beckley. At age 20, he succeeded his father to become the youngest Raleigh County jailer. Mills was an avid amateur athlete, playing on and managing baseball teams throughout the area. He acquired a reputation on the baseball field as batter, pitcher, and fielder in American Legion and coalfield leagues, playing until age 60.

Recovering from a mining accident, Mills enlisted in the army in 1942 as a paratrooper with the famous 82nd Airborne Division. He was wounded in the invasions of Normandy and Holland, surviving the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes, and other battles.

In 1948, Mills campaigned for Raleigh County sheriff after serving as a deputy and won. He was the youngest sheriff in county history and went on to become the only man to hold that office five times, and the first to serve consecutive terms. Sheriff Mills served intermittently from 1949 to 1981. He married Nettie Mae Neely in 1951. Between terms and after retirement, Mills was active in numerous political, veterans, and civic organizations. Okey A. Mills died in Beckley.

Written by Lois C. McLean


  1. Wood, Jim. Raleigh County. Beckley: J. Wood, 1994.

  2. Warren, Harlow. Beckley USA vol. 3. Beckley: Warren Harlow, 1955.

  3. Post Herald, 12/25/1975.

  4. Raleigh Herald, 1/20/1986.

  5. Haga, Pauline A. Tribute to the Police Officer, Booklet. Crab Orchard: Pauline Haga, 1993.

  6. Mills, Nettie. Interview by author. 6/26/2000.

  7. Mills, Okey. Interview by author. 6/22/2000.