I have had the good fortune of having David Mills as an uncle for the entirety of my life. I won't take long but I wanted to take this time to blow UBM's cover and share with you all the real David Mills.
David was the youngest of five children and was born to his parents later in their life. His father was close to 51 when he was born and his mom in her mid thirties. Early in David's life his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and her decline was both dramatic and life altering. Dave was an inquisitive child and a voracious reader...a true "old soul". His love for words became evident at an early age as he would pore over his dad's unabridged dictionary and read the Washington Star.
Due to his parents age and health Dave spent alot of time with me and my mother (his older sister by 19 years) growing up. He had an incredibly mature wit for a kid and would cause me to have multiple belly laughs due to his jokes. He created this character called "The Ghost of Chareshema" and would stand at the top of the stairs and scare the life out of me...this was likely the first character he ever created. We also LOVED "Charlie's Angels" as kids...I preferred Jaclyn Smith while he was more of a Kate Jackson guy. He would write scripts on 3 X 5 cards and create his own stories for the show while I drew cartoon strips showing how the scenes should look.
Dave was an involved uncle. He was five years my senior and always checked in on me. He flew me to Chicago after he got his first real job, gave me cash while in college, and always provided a listening ear. He taught me to love music from the Average White Band, Beatles, Elton John, Bee Gees to the Ohio Players, Spinners, Gap Band and of course Funkadelic. We used to sing B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets out loud in fake microphones an play pretend instruments. He was a boatload of fun!
Everyone knows his accomplishments and his intellectual heft but what most did not know is that Dave was a devoted family guy. He loved his parents and siblings. He had a father who modeled modesty and frugality for Dave and was equally brilliant. His mother had a wicked sense of humor in spite of her illness. David was a beautiful combination of the both of them...sensitive yet strong, compassionate and analytical.
David adored his mother and in spite of his success made time to regularly check in on his mom and provide anything she needed or wanted while she spent her last years in a nursing home. He always shared his success with his family, inviting them to awards ceremonies, premiers etc., but he always seemed to feel uncomfortable with the accolades. He hated the shallowness and fakeness of Hollywood, preferring to keep a small circle of friends. While insular in nature he shared his skills and talents with so many people.
Dave was an incredibly brave guy. As a young man he beat Cancer and always had the balls to confront ignorance from a purely intellectual vantage point, never letting the noise of the exchange get to him. Being a "red bone" brother he constantly was exposed to racial ignorance...from black folk in Northeast growing up to dumb rednecks on the internet and even uninformed Hollywood producers. He never let this paralyze him...it was like mental weight lifting to him...it made him strong. Interestingly enough for him to pass in diverse, Creole, Mullatto New Orleans was somewhat ironic. I truly feel that he felt peace there...he fit in.
Dave approached me a couple of years ago and said to me that "I hate to do this to you Clifie but in the event something happens to me I have designated you to take care of my business". I told him that I hope we will be old farts when that happened and that he is only five years ahead of me so he may need to have my back instead. He spent Christmases with me and my family. He was a super uncle to them coming to spelling bees, graduations and other stuff. When Uncle Dave came over we held Scrabble tournaments with the kids and played a newer game this year called Smart Mouth. He would always SPANK us but my oldest son would give him a run.
While on vacation on March 30th I got a frantic call from a close friend of Dave's telling me that Dave had an aneurism. I immediately made arrangements to fly to New Orleans but he left us that night. I am now forced to "take care of his business" but in classic Mills fashion he has made it easy. He died filming a scene in front of Cafe DuMonde...very quickly and apparently painlessly. I visited the spot and had the pleasure of sitting in a directors chair while a scene on his project was being filmed. I put on the headphones and looked through the computer screen at the scene and at that moment I fell apart. It was surreal, I felt him and I understood why he loved his craft so much. I witnessed how the script of his life closed, with a surprise ending but no less beautiful. I smelled the air, experienced the people, ate the food, marinated in the multi-cultural Gumbo called New Orleans.
David leaves so much for us to cherish and it is much deeper than his professional accomplishments. Dave never ever talked about himself. He rarely used the word "I", he hated the spotlight and always expected the best from himself. David was about excellence and exemplified it in an unassuming way.
I have the good fortune of telling my children that when they look at David Mills' life they can see what CHARACTER actually looks like. He modeled for us all how to shut up and put up, how to be the best and not talk about it. I recognize that I am blogging on hallowed ground but I feel it is important to reach out to his UBM peeps. The family will keep this living memorial available for all to see.
The service for Dave will be on Monday April 12th at the University of Maryland Chapel in College Park, MD. The wake will be from 9AM to 11AM and the service will begin at 11AM. You can google the chapel for directions. On behalf of UBM I want to thank you and let you know that he loved the exchange this medium provided.
Clifton Porter II
Nephew and Fellow Funkateer
Monday, April 5, 2010
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Thank you, Clifton, for this wonderful tribute to your uncle and gift to his readers here. My thoughts and condolences are with you and your family.
Brother Cliff, thank you for those loving words and your dilligent stewardship of David's legacy.
Thank you, Clifton, for this unexpected gift to David's readers and friends. My prayers are with you and your family in this time of loss. May you and yours find peace during this trying time.
Cliff, I can only imagine the pain you must feel. Yet, you are here to put the best touch possible on an impossible situation. It was terrible to think this forum would not get any closure and what kind of closure could there be, but here you are and I thank you. David was like a great friend. We had some fun exchanges over politics and music, yet I doubt he would know who I was. (Well, maybe with some major prompting.) Either way, from the almighty P, to the little p (politics), David was a gentleman. He is one of the few people I've met that could be partisan and open-minded at the same time.
How am I now supposed to know when Bernie Worrell has a new album? :-) He is sorely missed.
I join the others in saying thank you, Clifton, for putting David in perspective for those of us who knew him not as family, but as an artist and online companion. He is well served by your words.
I have to admit, when I saw the post pop up in my reader I hoped it would be UBM, revealing that it was some kind of bizarre mixup... "blowing" the cover of his death.
Thank you for the words, and for opening up and sharing a piece of the private side of David with us. I can't imagine what you are going through and my heart goes out to you and the rest of the family.
For what it's worth, coming from some random guy on the web, who can't even remember how he found this blog years ago... I will miss David.
Thank you Clifton. Beautifully written...you did David proud. Thank you for giving closure to folks like myself who keep coming here, out of habit and hope.
And I thought that I was done posting on this blog! Cliff, that was beautiful. And yet, I still can't believe that your unc is not longer walking the Earth (at least in physical form). In spiritual essence, he'll ALWAYS be here. Much love to ALL the family, and also to the folks that post on the site. Once again Dave, Godspeed.
Thanks for this, Clifton - both for the look at what a great guy David was, and for giving this blog a bit of closure. I kept thinking to myself, "What happens many years from now if someone stumbles across this place and wonders why UBM just stopped posting?" I'm relieved - and not that surprised - that David had the foresight to make sure someone was handling all his affairs, including this one.
I join the chorus. Amid your grief, you've given us an important, meaningful bit of . . . oh how david would wince now . . . closure.
You are fortunate to have had such an inspiring role model -- as are all of us.
Like Alan Sepinwall ^, I also had hoped this stimulating, entertaining, enlightening and highly personal online journal wouldn't be allowed to end mysteriously as though the screen had faded to black.
I've long since stopped being amazed by the depth of online acquaintanceships, but still felt a direct and personal blow from last week's news. David and I had exchanged a few emails since his NYPD Blue days (when I was part of Sepinwall's online forum)/ That contact and this community here made for a real connection, indeed.
You've done a sensitive, selfless act here, sir, in recognizing that we also mourn.
Heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
Clifton, just one more person saying thank you for doing this. It seems fully in keeping with how your uncle always seemed to do his best to honor people's feelings in a genuine way, fully in tune with his spirit. Obviously David was part of a great family. May you all find comfort in this time.
Thank you for taking a moment to share your uncle with us. My condolences to you and your family, and the people who David touched in life.
thanks, enjoyed reading some background on him. i clicked through his vox choices after his death was announced, and posted about his unexpected death.
funny how a stranger can make you think, and then make you gasp when you hear he's gone.
Thank you so much for this.
We are all still visiting here, I suppose waiting to hear more from David.
Even though that is not possible, you have just spoken for him and that provides some comfort.
Just like yourself and the rest of David's family and friends, we will never forget him.
bThank you Cliffton. I knew David for a long time and his love for his family was strong. I found an email this weekend about his mother and it almost broke my heart. I still can't believe he's gone but your post has brought some comfort. Your words would have made David proud. Thank you for sharing this. I hope to be there on the 12th to say goodbye properly. I'm sorry for your loss. Much love and peace....
Thank you for keeping UMB alive. I think a lot of us needed it to continue.
Nephew and Fellow Funkateer,
I didn't know what to think when I saw UBM's site had been updated on my blog roll. What a pleasant surprise.
I had actually been scouring the internet for news of the funeral even though I won't be able to attend.
Thank you so much for sharing -- for your beautiful tribute to your uncle. It brings some closure to a situation that I was having a hard time grasping.
My condolences to the Mills family.
It is with gratitude that I write this.
My Aunt passed suddenly in November and, while it is never easy to lose a loved one, it easy to speak of them when their lives were rich. As exemplified by your fitting eulogy, it sounds to me as if David's wealth extended well beyond the gifts he shared with us. Although I never had the blessing of knowing or working with him -- as some of my friends back home in New Orleans did--I read him and appreciated his musings on this blog. I found a comfort in knowing that someone in Hollywood moved so fluidly amongst diverse people and spoke the truth about race here in this forum having heard the truth from the Black and White horses' mouths. He spoke for all of us and I am grateful we still have Treme to look forward to. Clifton, I thank you again for speaking to us; I pray your family finds peace and solace in the wonderful memories your uncle left behind.
Thanks Clifton, your efforts are well appreciated, as we all struggle to reconcile David's departure. I hope it gives his family comfort, as well, to know that so many held him in very high esteem. My blog has been silent since his death, but I think David would say that it's time to 'kick it in the ass'.
All the best to you and David's entire family.
Thank you for taking the time to share your memories of David with us. He was a man of great character who created great characters.
Clifton, thank you so much for sharing memories of your uncle with us. Your post made me smile. (David preferred Kate Jackson over Jaclyn Smith. Love it.)
My condolences to you and your family.
Thank you, Clifton. I think we all wish we could have gotten to know David the way you did.
My heartfelt condolences. He was a true hero. RIP.
Thank you so much for this Clifton. I wish you the and the family the best.
This was beautiful. Thank you so much. I send you my condolences.
I'm sad that I did not know about this blog until now. David seemed absolutely amazing, and I know I have so much appreciation for his work.
My prayers go out to David's family.
How lucky David was to have a nephew like you who could honor him so beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing your love for you uncle with us. My sincerest condolences to you and your family.
You too are a gifted writer. Are you willing to pick up where he left off?
Thank You,beautifully written. David will be missed.
Thank you, Clifton, for confirming my suspicion that David was a righteous dude. My deepest sympathies for your loss.
My condolences to you and your family. Great to know about the roots of his love for writing for TV--he was one of my favorite writers from that industry--and that he was the coolest uncle and he was so humble and un-Hollywood.
Clifton, I'm so glad you shared this - I've enjoyed David's work for a long time, and it was a pleasure to see another side of him. My condolences to you and your family; there are many people sharing your loss with you.
Disclosure ( I coined the label "one drop"'one drop rule" )for David during many of our rants on his blog..He called me a cockroach after I was mad that he would not develop my script and character I created Dr.Cukoo..I will miss our banter it was hot and heavy but I truly know he loved it..It kept him grounded..
Thank you Clifton for posting this. It makes his humanity even more tangible. We used to fun around at another blog called Denmark Vesey. I will miss his witt.
R.I.P David! :(
I will forever treasure the weekly old school R&B tracks you posted! Really good music taste. You will be missed! LOVE your blog!
Strong! B'danks hoss.
Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories. Peace to you and your family.
Thank you. This was a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for the loss of your uncle. I feel very honored to say that I got to spend some time with David as a friend.
So wide can't get around it
So low you can't get under it
That's what this loss feels like, indeed.
God Bless you and the Mills family.
Clifton, thank you so much. You and yours are in our thoughts.
Thank you, Clifton. Writing this was very thoughtful of you, and beautifully written.
Thank you Clifton. I am embarrassed to say that I was a recent convert to this blog, even though I have been following David's career for years. I have spent the last week or so combing though the archives to catch up. Thanks again, and he will be missed.
I'm very sorry to hear of Dave's final scene, Clifton. I just read now that he had died on the set last week -- in the Times.
I hope that Dave is occupying another dimension where Ukulele strumming babes are funkily wailing
and he is directing the show.
I'd always hoped to meet him when I was in the states, but I will have to wait until I take that more extended Final Trip now.
Dave would usually answer my emails and I thought he was just way too busy on the set to even read them this month, but now I know the sad truth.
I live in a very mixed race town
so Dave would have fit right in here.
Being that you were nephew/brother to Dave, Clifton, I imagine that
these days must be difficult for you and the tribe.
I only knew Dave through infrequent email exchanges and periodic blog perusals. All the same, he was a guy that made an impression. Even undercover.
Thanks a lot for writing this, Clifton. I'll miss David: his blog was smart, funny, skeptical. I learned from it. My best to your family.
David was a brilliant and gentle soul who helped to show us the full potential worth of the medium of television. Everyone knows his wonderful television work but his music criticism is just as important--nobody captured the political and cultural importance of funk the way he did. Thank you, Clifton.
Clifton, thanks so much for this closure, and your wonderful memories.
Clifton, thank you very much.
Clifton, thank you for the moving article honoring your uncle. It allowed me to have a personal, up close perspective on David and who he was has a person and a human being. Although we were distant strangers, I feel as if we were good friends, thanks to his Blog. I truly feel your loss. My condolences to your and your family and I wish you all the best.
What a moving tribute. Not knowing UBM on a personal level, I feel that your characterization is right on the money. I say so because I feel this blog is a genuine representation of him. Its kind of hard to explain but when I visit here, I know I'll learn something. I know that through that learning I'll be enriched. I come here for entertainment, solace and enlightment. I never thought that I would miss somebody that I've never personally met.
Some where I read and agree that a person never really dies. Although their body goes back to the earth, their influences, thoughts and words are transferred to others so that their existence perpetuates.
Regardless of who promotes the TV show "Treme", I always think of Dave first. Some of the things that I've learned here will be with me until my dying day.
Hey Clif, If you're up to it AND you have the "Right Stuff" you should take some time and show us what your uncle taught you, through this blog.
Simply lovely. Thank you Mr. Porter.
I saw this at Univ. of Maryland's Memorial Chapel website: Services for David Mills
Thank you for posting this. My prayers and condolences are with you and your family.
(And my heart skipped a beat there for a moment, hoping UBM had just played a big bad joke on everyone and had resurfaced.)
Thank you, Clifton. Your cousin was a helluva guy. My prayers and thoughts are with your family.
A beautiful tribute. You have my deepest, deepest condolences.
There's just something about a wonderful person leaving behind so much in life that you can celebrate them as you mourn.
In his honour, I intend to catch up on as much Funkadelic as I can get my hands on.
I wish you and his family well during this difficult time.
-A Relatively More Recent Fan.
Thanks for the post.
I feel as though I've been to the funeral.
Your uncle was one of the blogging titans who will be missed.
Like Mandisa - I enjoyed the ish talking of Mills at DV's spot.
A prayer for you and your family.
Thanks for this post, I came late to this party and loved David's writing without ever knowing it was his, until it was too late of course but it still doesn't take away from what a terrible loss this is.
I only really knew David from his blog, here, and from his occasional forays into other venues, including Alan Sepinwall's comment section, where I first ran across him.
This was a wonderful eulogy, and the sort of fitting wrapup one always hopes for when a prominent blogger suddenly finds they have no more time to tell us their stories... but so often doesn't get.
David was a great writer, both there and here, and it's good to know that, like another of heros who passed this year, Robert B Parker, he died doing what he loved, even if it was harder on the rest of us.
Thanks for this posting, and I do hope you can leave the site up, though perhaps with comment pages locked, except this one.
I'm sorry for your loss, dude; he sounds like a great uncle.
This is both shocking and horribly sad. He last stopped by my website a couple of months ago---to offer a compliment as usual.
What a loss. I'll do a more thorough write up on my blog.
Thank you for this beautiful post. I read here for years even though I seldom commented. Your uncle sounds like a truly genuine man. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to you and your family.
What a great loss. A wonderful tribute, too.
Go 'head on brother. This is a wonderful blog. I'm proud of your writing.
Clifton, your words about your uncle were so beautiful and heartfelt that I am crying. What a marvelous man David was and was taken from us too soon. My prayers are with you and your family.
I just came across this blog and just wanted to express my deepest sympathies to you and your family over such a tragic loss. I became a big fan of David's work on the Wire and look forward to watching Treme (I didn't get a chance last night). He had an enormous talent and insight into the human condition and his absence will be felt for years to come.
Thanks for pulling the covers off of Undercover Black Man and showing us he was indeed a good man. Sorry for your lost.
I love this blog.
Thank you! Clifton. Your uncle was one of my "touchstones". He had the singular ability to put his readers (and viewers) right next to his characters. I loved everyone of them in some way. From his great interviews to his screenwriting and his blogging, he was outstanding and he will be sorely missed. He was my soul and my brother from another mother. My sincere condolences to you and your family. RIP my friend.
I had been so busy but I had managed to catch
the premiere of "Treme" and was coming here to tell David how much I enjoyed it, only to be shocked and
saddened by his passing.
Your uncle was truly a great talent, and
I truly loved his work, and was glad I got a chance to tell him so.
My condolences to you and your family...
and thank you for sharing your remembrances.
my prayers for your family this week for peace
as your family goes through this.
Clifton,David's work will not be forgotten. He worked on some of my favorite viewing(and,really,almost all of my present day scripted TV viewing). What a legacy! And,now I see,he loved the funk! The more I know about David,the more I miss him. Take care and keep putting a little of David's passion in your endeavors each day. That's what I strive to do.Truly,that is Spirit and that is what lives on.
What a comfort it was to read this. He was so private and protective of his family, we never knew his other life. It is an honor to find out now. He will be doubly missed. What a proud uncle he must be, knowing you will carry his legacy and his memory. Please know that his influence marked many of us out here.
I was very sad on Sunday watching Treme. David and I had sushi a few months ago right before he flew to New Orleans and he told me all about the show. I hate I won't every see him again, but am thankful for our last meal together. I worked as his assistant during Kingpin and learned so much about TV from him. I am still learning from him. He and his talent will be missed!
Thank you for your words. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
That was hearfelt.. thanks C.
Thank you, Clifton. Thank you. I remember when David left UM and the Diamondback for his internship and came back to tell the community about his illness, of course, in the paper. I was so happy to find him here and tell him that I remembered him and his work, particularly *that* column and the one where he stepped out of the "racial closet" , revealing the racism in the Diamondback offices and the Banneker scholarship that brought him to UMCP. I had been following his career since the 80s. I feel fortunate to have found to opportunity to connect with him, even if it was brief.
i will continue to remember your family in prayer through this time. Bless you for making the effort to connect with all of us.
What a wonderful tribute to David. I knew him in High School and he had such a beautiful soul back then as well. It was never about him, even back then. I had the privilege to catch back up with David on Facebook. He will be missed.
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