April 11, 2008 by Ted Sumner, Tenth Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate
Humility and good taste precluded Mills from writing his own biography. so I wrote
the bio for him. For those who do not know this living treasure of the martial arts
who regularly contributes to my San Jose Kenpo Forum, I offer this short biography
of Kenpo Master Mills Crenshaw.
An authorized biography of Mills Crenshaw
by Ted Sumner
The name of Mills Crenshaw is inextricably linked to Ed Parker and the ushering in
of the modern age of Kenpo in the United States. As one of Ed Parker’s first
non-Polynesian students and his first “haolie” Black Belt, Mills had a front row
seat to history and was an active participant in the establishment and development
of Ed Parker’s vision of Kenpo that would come to be the predominate self-defense
system in the western world.
Born in Phoenix Arizona on August 19, 1936 Mills was raised in Northern California
in the wine producing region of the Napa Valley. While in Junior High School Mills
became interested in the fencing program that was offered by the ROTC program. Mills
continued his passion for fencing through high school. Napa High was located on the
campus of Napa Junior College, where, as a tall, lean, striking figure, he was
chosen in his senior year of high school, to serve as drum major for the Junior
College marching band.
Mills Entered Brigham Young University in 1954 and immediately sought out the
fencing master and arranged a try out for a position on the BYU fencing team. The
fencing master, who was anxious to retire, was so impressed with Mill’s fencing
skills that he made the unprecedented recommendation to the school’s Athletic
Department that they appoint this incoming freshman as his replacement. As the new
fencing master of BYU, Mills undertook his duties in earnest, training his team
daily at the Smith Field House, were the wrestling room was located and, as fate
would have it, where Ed Parker trained a group of Hawaiians in the art of Kenpo.
Intrigued by what he saw of Kenpo in the wrestling room, Mills was soon stricken by
similarities in the theory and tactics between Kenpo and fencing. His fascination
became an all-consuming compulsion when he witnessed a high power demonstration of
Kenpo by Ed Parker during half time at a BYU basketball game. (The more well known
demonstration during the UCLA basketball halftime occurred a year later). Spellbound
by the skills of Ed Parker and with the power of Kenpo, Mills began badgering Ed to
take him as a student, to which Ed kindly, and repeatedly, responded, “Don’t call us
kid. We’ll call you”.
Ed finally acquiesced to the repeated requests of the young Fencing Master and took
Mills as his personal student beginning a treasured friendship that would endure
until the untimely passing of Ed Parker. After the graduation and departure of Ed
Parker in 1956, Mills continued working with the growing non-Polynesian Kenpo group
at BYU and upon graduation in 1958 opened his own dojo in Salt Lake City. Mills left
his dojo in the hands of a trusted Aikidoka when he was called to serve in the
United States Army, where, after completing Officers Candidate School, Mills served
with the 19th Special Forces Group.
Mills continued his close association with Ed Parker regularly traveling to
California to continue his study of Kenpo and hosting Ed on his frequent visits to
Utah. Ed lived at Mills home in Lake Forest, California, for a month during which
time Mills collaborated with Ed on his book “Inside Elvis”. As a result of his close
association, Ed introduced Mills to such notables as film director Blake Edwards,
Bruce Lee and Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley.
Mills, an organizational genius, was frequently consulted by Ed on matters pertinent
to the growth and well being of Kenpo. Mills was the prime mover in the formation of
the International Kenpo Karate Association and served as the organizations Chairman
of the Board of Regents. Mills was also instrumental in realizing Ed’s dream of an
annual International Karate Championship Tournament. Mills participated in the first
ever competition in Long Beach in 1964 where he astounded the audiences and
mesmerized the judges with his blinding hand speed, ultimately losing a
controversial split decision for the heavyweight title in a titanic battle with the
mighty Mike Stone.
Over his more than half a century teaching Kenpo, Mills has produced some of the
most formidable students ever to step onto the mat. The names Tony Martinez Sr, Tony
Martinez Jr, Dan Lynch, Gil Hibben, Dick Cassuel and Casey Clayton evoke images of a
ferocious Kenpo excellence that once only the name of Ed Parker could conjure. And
of his many accomplishments as a fighter and teacher of Kenpo, Mills is most proud
that his students Tony Martinez Sr. and Tony Jr. were enshrined with him at the
inaugural International Kenpo Hall of Fame in Chicago in 2007. In 2011 Mills was
awarded the rank of Ninth Degree Black Belt.
Mills lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife where, at age 77, he continues to
work and actively teach Kenpo, and host his daily talk radio program. A devoted
family man Mills is very proud of his five children, twenty-five grandchildren and
four great grandchildren. Mills Crenshaw is truly a living treasure of the martial
arts and Kenpo’s most venerated elder statesman.
- Pioneered the concept of modern talk radio programming.
- Replaced syndicated network headliner Rush Limbaugh with live local talk and boosted that segment’s audience share by 400%.
- Created the largest audience active response at the State Capital in state history www.millscrenshaw.com
- Lifted the station from marginal ratings to the number two AM station in the market.
- Negotiated the LMA, and recruited the team that launched the only 24 hour, live, local talk radio station west of the Mississippi.
- Worked closely with sales staff to create enthusiastic repeat advertisers.
- Developed an extraordinary ability to sell on air; often resulting in buyers entering an advertiser’s place of business only minutes after an ad airs asking the owner for the item being advertised.
- Cultivated the ability to “listen” to the callers as well as “talk.” A trait that separates professional Talk Show Hosts from “wanna-bees.”
- Combines creative marketing concepts with superior on-air skills.
- Prime Time Radio Talk Show Host. KTKK (K-TALK) Radio, Salt Lake City, Utah. Helped perfect the concept of Live, Local, talk radio. Won the largest, and most loyal and dedicated talk show audience in the market. Outsold advertising compared to the next closest host by more than two to one.
- Talk Show Host/Program Director. KCNR Radio, Salt Lake City, Utah. Formulated a new, all talk format; recruited and trained the new team and consistently lead all day parts.
- Station Manager/ Talk Show Host. KWUN (Radio One), Salt Lake City, Utah. Presided over the construction of a state of the art, AM station from the bare walls to a successful launch. Created the trade style, “Radio One.” Captured the majority of live, local talk show listeners in the 38th largest market in the US.
- Created an innovative new marketing plan that utilized existing lending programs; negotiated $38 Million in construction projects with that marketing plan.
- Produced a low cost and highly effective series of radio ads for lead development that generated more than $14 Million in sales.
- Restructured the national marketing effort for a California based POS software development company; increased sales by 275%.
- Developed channel marketing tools for Gateway, Insight and BlueStar as well as all the client’s national resellers, more than doubling market penetration.
- Designed the marketing content of the corporate website. As a result, on-line lead generation more than tripled.
- Entrusted with responsibility for all corporate communications encompassing a broad spectrum including copy, packaging, trade shows and press releases. Both sales and industry recognition increased significantly.
- Clear insight into marketing strategies that sell and marketing materials that motivate prospective clients to inquire further. Hands-on expertise in major media including radio, TV, print and Internet.
- Have developed the skill to learn the essentials and speak the language of virtually any industry in a matter of weeks.
- The combination of executive and broadcasting experience has resulted in highly effective people skills.
- A relaxed skill at big ticket negotiations and sales resulting in $ Multi-Millions in sales
- V.P. Marketing. Castle Stone Homes, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah. Designed the entire marketing plan for this Start-up General Contracting Company. Developed the lead generation program and closed the sales on sixty-eight high end homes in the company’s first quarter.
- V.P. Marketing. COMCASH, New Port Beach, California. Restructured the national marketing effort of this Point of Sale software development company. Managed a $250,000 web advertising campaign that positioned COMCASH first in the industry listings. Worked closely with the sales staff to develop highly successful vertical market strategies.
- Director of Marketing. Mabile and Associates, New Port Beach, California. Generated $26 Million in sales over a three year period. The firm acted as consultants to CPAs and accountants.
- Bachelor of Science, Marketing/Motivational Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Honors and Awards
- Inducted into the International Kenpo Karate Hall of Fame as a Charter Member. Elevated to the rank of Ninth Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate.
- National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts (NARTSH); elected as one of five National Vice Presidents.