The second Legal Diva of Color to be featured in this month’s series is Cheryl Mills. Ms. Mills set the world on fire with her impassioned defense of then President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings in 1999. In doing so, she became the first African American to address the Senate at such a hearing.
Cheryl Mills was born to a military family. Her father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. As a result, she moved quite a bit as a child. She received her Bachelors at the University of Virginia, graduating as part of Phi Beta Kappa (exclusively for those who have high grades and good moral standing). Ms. Mills went on to Stanford Law School, where she was selected to join Stanford Law Review. Again, this is an honor saved for the most gifted in the law school class.
Upon graduation, she worked at the Washington D.C. power broker firm Hogan and Hartson. In 1993, Ms. Mills became the Associate Counsel to President Clinton. Her role was quiet until Ken Starr, the independent prosecutor, filed charges of obstruction and perjury against President Clinton, in part for the handling of his affairs with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. It was the second day of the hearings in January of 1998 that brought Cheryl Mills to center stage. She presented President Clinton as a flawed human being, but not a criminal. She is often remembered for stating:
“I stand here before you today because President Bill Clinton believed I could stand here for him … I’m not worried about civil rights, because this President’s record on civil rights, on women’s rights, on all of our rights is unimpeachable.
Obviously, what she said worked, because the Senate voted not to impeach President Clinton.
Her path continued with a break from the practice of law to become the Senior Vice President for Corporate Policy and Public Programming at Oxygen Media. Ms. Mills then went to work at (my alma mater) New York University, handling labor related matters. DC kept calling — she returned to Washington to serve as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Counselor and Chief of Staff in 2009. She was called to a Senate hearing yet again as part of the Benghazi inquiry.
Currently, she is the founder and CEO of the BlackIvy Group, which builds businesses in Africa. Her philanthropic endeavors also include sitting on a number of boards in the Washington DC area.
Thank you Cheryl Mills for being a Legal Diva of Color!