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McMillan, James B., 1917-1999


Civil rights leader James B. McMillan was born in 1917 in Aberdeen, Mississippi and moved to Michigan in 1931 with his family. He finished his high school education in Hamtramck, Michigan where he was the first African-American captain of the football and track teams. In 1936, he opted to enroll at the University of Detroit rather than the segregated University of Michigan. After graduation, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry.

While at Meharry, McMillan joined the Army Specialized Training Program and was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Army Dental Corps. He was the first African-American man assigned to the 49th Battalion, which was stationed in Calcutta, India, and he rose to the rank of Captain. In 1946, he was honorably discharged. In 1954, he was recalled to active duty in Indiana and promoted to Major. He received a second honorable discharge in 1955 and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lived until his death in 1999.

McMillan was the first African-American dentist in Nevada. He served as a member of the State Board of Dental Examiners, the American Board of Dental Examiners, and the American Dental Association. He was also active in the community, serving as Director of the Clark County Boys Club, Director of the Diabetic Society, on the board of directors for the KVBC television station, and as a member of the City of Hope fundraising committee.

McMillan was a prominent civil rights leader and an integral part of desegregation efforts in Nevada. He served as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Las Vegas branch, chairman of the Economic Opportunity Board of Clark County, and president of the Black Chamber of Commerce (now known as the Urban Chamber of Commerce). In addition, he founded the Las Vegas Human Rights Commission, served on the Clark County School Board, was elected president of the West Las Vegas Democratic Club, and became the first African-American to served on the State Democratic Central Committee. He was also the first African-American from Nevada to run for the United States Senate and campaign for Las Vegas City Council. In 1960, as local NAACP president, McMillan threatened to march on the Las Vegas Strip to demand desegregation of public accomodations. Later, McMillan threatened another march to force casinos to hire blacks in positions other than porters and maids. In both cases, the casino owners capitulated. McMillan also orchestrated large voter registration drives to encourage minorities to vote.

In 1990, James B. McMillan Elementary School was dedicated in his honor. Weeks after McMillan's death in 1999 the Nevada State Assembly passed Concurrent Resolution No. 49 to honor McMillan's commitment to civil rights and racial equality.


"Dr. James B. McMillan: Committed to Freedom." Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Accessed July 16, 2014.