John Atta Mills

John Evans FiIfi Atta Mills (21 July 1944-24 July 2012) was a Ghanaian politician and legal scholar who served as President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. He was inaugurated on 7 January 2009, having defeated the ruling party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2008 election. Previously he was Vice-President from 1997 to 2001 under President Jerry Rawlings, and he stood unsuccessfully in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). He is the first and only Ghanaian head of state to die in office.

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Mills was born on 21 July 1944 in Tarkwa, in the Western Region of Ghana. A member of the Fante ethnic group, he hailed from the town of Ekumfi Otuam in the Mfantsiman East constituency of the Central Region of Ghana. He had his primary and middle school education at Huni Valley Methodist Primary School and Komenda Methodist Middle School respectively. He then proceeded to the prestigious Achimota School for his secondary education, where he completed the Ordinary and Advanced-Level Certificates in 1961 and 1963 respectively, and the University of Ghana, Legon, where he completed a bachelor of law degree, LLB and a professional law certificate in 1967.

Mills studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he obtained an LLM in 1968 and earned a PhD in Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies School of Law, part of the federal University of London, after completing his doctoral thesis in the field of taxation and economic development in 1971 at the age of 27. Even during his career in politics, he was sometimes called by the nickname “The prof”, a reference to his long academic career. His political supporters also called him “Asomdweehene” meaning “King of Peace” in the Akan language.

Mills’ first formal teaching assignment was a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana. He spent close to twenty-five years teaching at Legon and other institutions of higher learning. In 1971, he was selected for the Fulbright Scholar programme at Stanford Law School in the US.

He returned to his homeland, Ghana, at the end of the international educational exchange fellowship to work at his alma mater, the University of Ghana, for 25 years. He became a visiting professor at Temple University (Philadelphia, USA), with two stints from 1978 to 1979, and 1986 to 1987. He was also a visiting lecturer at Leiden University in the Netherlands from 1985 to 1986. During this period, he authored several publications relating to taxation during the 1970s and 1980s.

Outside of his academic pursuits, Mills was the Acting Commissioner of Ghana’s internal Revenue Service from 1988 to 1993 under President Jerry John Rawlings, and the substantive Commissioner from 1993 to 1996. By 1992, he had become an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ghana. In 2002, he was a visiting scholar at the Liu institute for Global issues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia through a joint Canadian international Development Agency(CIDA)- international Development Research Centre (IDRC) fellowship programme.


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