Lincoln Mills is one of the very few early jazzmen whose name could be mistaken for a business, and quite an important one at that. But when the trumpeter named Lincoln Mills ended his own life in the late '50s, it had nothing to do with the outcome of a landmark 1955 federal labor law case, Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills. Whatever was behind his decision--which sadly also places the trumpeter in the catagory of jazz, more specifically swing suicides--did not have to do with the quality of the company he was keeping on the bandstand. Miller can be heard on splendid Benny Carter sides from the late '30s and early '40s, he also performed previously with a brilliant orchestra under the direction of Eddie South.
Adept at the natural trumpet sound and friendly extemporizing favored by swing bandleaders, Mills also gigged and recorded with brilliant pianist Claude Hopkins and tenor saxophone titan Coleman Hawkins. Engagements with a band led by Gene Sedric, an ex-sideman of Fats Waller nicknamed "Teddy Bear", took place during the nighty-night final years of a career that had begun in 1929 with dance bands in New York City and Philadelphia. Eugene Kennedy hired the trumpeter for a run at the Arcadia Ballroom in the former metropolis; this led to bookings with Cliff Jackson, Doc Hyder and Tiny Bradshaw as well as an Atlantic City sojourn with Bobby Lee's band. Discographer Tom Lord places Mills in trumpet-blaring proximity of 17 recording sessions between 1934 and 1947. He does not appear to have played trumpet during the final decade of his life.