Savannah’s Mills Fleming has passion for culture, law

August 19, 2011

By Allison Hersh, as published in Savannah Morning News

NAME: Mills Fleming

AGE: 47

HOMETOWN: St. Petersburg, Fla.

FAMILY: Wife, Marianne, and son, Alexander

EDUCATION: J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law, B.A. from the University of Florida

BACKGROUND: Attorney Mills Fleming, a longtime partner at the law firm of HunterMaclean, recently took the reins as the chair of the Telfair Museums board of directors. In his first year as chair, he will guide this venerable cultural institution through a search for a new director and spearhead a lively 125th anniversary celebration. Ever since he moved to Savannah in 1990, the immigration and health care attorney has been committed to giving back. Fleming served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Lucas Theatre for the Arts Inc. from 1996 to 2001, helping raise more than $10 million to restore this historic theater built by his great-grandfather, Arthur Lucas, in 1921. In addition to his service to the Telfair, he currently contributes as vice chair of the Bethesda Home for Boys/Bethesda Academy. He is also the past chairman of the Memorial University Medical Center Foundation and a former board member for the Savannah Music Festival, Rape Crisis Center and Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

TELFAIR GOALS: “We want the Telfair to set the standard … because it always has. This means growing the collection, growing the audience, growing the programs and growing the opportunities. The Telfair has been an indispensable part of Savannah’s fabric for the past 125 years, and it is our responsibility to be faithful stewards of that legacy and to embrace our future.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF INSPIRATION: “The Telfair does more than exhibit art; it inspires creativity and provides a place for people from all walks of life and modes of expression to connect,” Fleming said.

ON LEADERSHIP: “I enjoy leading with vision, strategy and focus. These ingredients are essential to move any project forward in a responsible way.”

THE POWER OF THE ARTS: “I’ve always appreciated the arts. I’m not an artist – I don’t sing, dance, draw or play an instrument, but I believe the arts offer windows into the soul and allow for issues and expressions to be understood in a very honest, conscious and subconscious way.”

HELPING ORGANIZATIONS SUCCEED: “You can’t simply rest on what the organization did before you got there,” he said. “We are living in 2011, not 1911. While we always want to remember the past, we also have to be relevant for today and move forward for tomorrow.”

MOTTO: “Whatever you do, do it right and do it well.”

EXPECTING EXCELLENCE: “What I ask for — and demand — is for people to act with integrity and to give me their absolute best.”

CREATIVE COMMUNITY: “The arts define not only the type of community we are, but also the community we hope to be,” he said. “There’s no question that the arts make a community better and are a significant economic engine. Look no further than Savannah — from the Telfair, to the Savannah Music Festival, to the Lucas and to SCAD — to prove that point.”

LAW AND ORDER: “What appeals to me about the law is that it provides the foundation for how we live and work together, and it’s constantly changing.”

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: “The U.S. Constitution is a profound document and rests on the timeless foundation of equal justice under law.”

ARTISTIC FREEDOM: “Art is a very free expression. It’s very revealing and honest. There’s a reality to it that’s very powerful.”

FAVORITE AUTHORS: Pat Conroy and Paul Zahl

FAVORITE MOVIES: “Apocalypse Now” and “Limitless”

FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Law & Order,” “60 Minutes” and ESPN

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