Former head of Gainesville cable company dies at 85


Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.

James Lee Milliken, the former head of the Gainesville cable company that later became part of Cox Cable, died this week in Georgia after a long illness. He was 85.

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James Lee Milliken

Milliken is listed as a pioneer in the cable television business by The Cable Center in Denver, which chronicles the story of cable. He developed or was involved in the creation of cable television systems from Ohio to Florida from the mid-1950s until his retirement in the 1970s.

But Milliken talked often of his "crown jewel," the cable television system he developed and built in Gainesville, his family said.

"He relocated to Gainesville and actually did all the engineering and studies to get the tower location and get it started," said Bob Franks, who worked with Milliken when the company was called University City Cable Television Cable Co. and later was made a manager at the business once it was part of Cox. "Communities the size of Gainesville didn't have cable companies. When he came to this community, they were pioneering the cable business."

The company started locally in 1965, an article in the The Sun reported. Milliken headed the business from its start and later sold the company's stock to Cox in June 1978. He remained as the organization's general manager for a year under the terms of an agreement with Cox.

"He was just a fine man, a very ethical person," Franks said. He recalled when Milliken contacted area officials after he realized the company had been undercharged for electricity and then paid what was owed.

"He loved Gainesville more than anything," James C. Milliken said about his father, known to many people as Lee.

Born on a dairy farm near Wellsburg, W.Va., James Lee Milliken completed two years of college at West Liberty College in West Virginia before he was called into active military duty during World War II.

Milliken served as an infantry second lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. Relatives said he recalled that he and his detachment brought the first military payroll into Japan during its occupation after World War II.

Milliken's first wife, Mary Elizabeth Pasterjack, died from cancer in 1980. In 1982, he married Beatrice Stewart in Atlanta. The pair lived on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine before moving to John's Creek, Ga., to be closer to family. She died from cancer in 2007.

Survivors include Milliken's three daughters and their husbands, David and Christine Leigh, Gary and Gail Laney, and Larry and Beverly Corbin, another son and his wife, William Charles and Connie Stewart, as well as his son James C. Milliken, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at H.M. Patterson and Son Funeral Home, the Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, 4550 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta.

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