Billy Mills was born on June 30, 1938 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He is Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Billy did not have an easy childhood. Surrounded by poverty and orphaned at the age of 12, he started running to channel his energy into something positive. In high school, his gift for running become more apparent as he set records in numerous track events. He went on to earn a track scholarship from the University of Kansas and then served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
At the 1964 Olympics, he shocked the world and came from behind to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters race. At the time, he set a world record of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds and is still the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10K event. His win was an upset that has been called the second greatest moment in Olympic history.
In Lakota culture, someone who achieves great success has a ‘giveaway’ to thank the support system of family and friends who helped him achieve his goal. As part of his effort to give back to his community, Billy helped found Running Strong for American Indian Youth and became the organization’s National Spokesperson. Today Billy travels over 300 days every year. He visits Native American communities throughout the U.S. and speaks to youth about healthy lifestyles and taking pride in their heritage.
As the 2020/2021 Summer Olympics will once again be held in Tokyo, Running Strong is celebrating Billy’s 1964 Olympic victory and legacy throughout 2020. Please visit this page throughout the year to find out about all of Billy’s speaking events and appearances; news articles about him; and our special “Road to Tokyo Series” where you can follow Billy on his journey to the 1964 Olympics and his gold medal-winning race!
During the 2020 Olympic Games, Billy Mills‘ returned to Tokyo, where it all began. Check out our series, Road to Tokyo. From August 2019 until the Games began in 2020, Billy shared never-before-heard stories from his time at and leading up to the Olympics in 1964.
Billy is a devoted family man. He has been married to Pat Mills, a talented artist and owner of Studio Tupos, for nearly 60 years. Together they have four daughters, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. They currently reside in Northern California, where Billy and Pat keep up an active speakers’ bureau and enjoy time spent with family and friends.
Billy has been the distinguished recipient of many honors, awards, and recognitions, continuing from his victory in the 1964 Olympics to the present day. The impact Billy has had on American culture and society is incomparable. He has held both national and world athletic records to Hall of Fame inductions and became a best-selling author. Billy has been changing the lives of thousands of Native Americans across the country for decades. Read Billy’s CV here for his lifetime of service, awards, and other achievements.