Long-time activist Millie I. Webb ushered in the new millennium and her term as national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) by kicking off the organization’s 20th anniversary year in 2000. She served as National President from January 1, 2000 to June 30, 2002. Commemorating the estimate 183,000 lives saved since MADD’s inception, the organization’s anniversary culminated with a rally outside the U.S. Capitol where Millie and 600 drunk driving victims and activists called on Congress to lower the drunk driving limit to .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in every state. Shortly after the memorable occasion, Millie realized the historical, yet personal, milestone.
Thanks to her lifelong work with MADD, in October 2000, the national standard for drunk driving became .08 BAC—the same deadly level of impairment that left Millie and her family’s life shattered and scarred nearly three decades earlier in her hometown of Franklin, Tenn.
In 1971, a drinking driver with a BAC of .08 percent rear-ended the family car carrying Millie, her husband, Roy, their 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lori, and 19-month-old nephew, Mitchell Pewitt, Jr. Millie, who was seven months pregnant at the time, suffered a broken neck and was burned on nearly 75 percent of her body. Roy also suffered severe burns while attempting to extinguish the flames that engulfed Millie, Lori and Mitchell with his bare hands. Mitchell lived for six hours, while little Lori suffered for two weeks before dying from burns covering 75 percent of her body. Kara, Millie’s baby, was born prematurely and legally blind as a result of the crash. Five years later, Roy and Millie were blessed with another child, Ashlea. Through her work with MADD, Millie learned to turn her physical and emotional scars into stars that would help light the path for others who were going through the same pain she had once endured.
After 40 years and enduring 30 surgeries as a result of the crash, Millie was honored to join President Bill Clinton in the White House Oval Office on October 23, 2000, for the signing of a federal law that induced all 50 states to adopt the .08 BAC national standard for drunk driving by 2003 or lose federal highway construction funds. With an estimated 600 lives saved per year if every state adopted .08, the law marked the biggest step reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths and injuries since the passage of the minimum 21 drinking age law in 1984.
Prior to being elected national president, Millie tirelessly worked to achieve MADD’s mission as a volunteer with MADD Tennessee. Due to her experience as a bereaved parent and burn survivor, Millie was selected to be a part of the Crisis Response Team following the Kentucky School Bus crash that occurred on May 14, 1988. Considered the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history, the fiery crash killed 27 passengers, most of them children.
In 1991, Millie was elected to the MADD National Board of Directors. Throughout her tenure, she held offices as Vice President of Victim Issues as well as Secretary, and she served on the board’s Public Policy, Executive, Field Issues and Nominating committees. Millie has also been frequently asked to present workshops at MADD’s National Victim Institutes across the country. In 1998, Millie was awarded MADD National’s prestigious Golden Achievement Award, which recognizes an outstanding individual’s efforts.
In August 2000, Millie was awarded the National Organization for Victim Assistance’s (NOVA) Edith Surgan Award for Outstanding Leadership in a Self Help Group in a Victims Movement, which is considered NOVA’s highest honor. In November 2000, Dr. Robert Schuller of television’s “Hour of Power” presented her with the prestigious Scars Into Stars Award. Also in the year 2000, Millie was awarded the National Commission Against Drunk Driving (NCADD) Humanitarian Award. In June 2002, the Healthtrac Foundation awarded Millie the 2002 Fries Prize for Improving Health for her leadership of MADD and for the grassroots effort that established .08% blood alcohol content as the lifesaving national standard for drunk driving. The Fries Prize is intended as the Nobel Prize equivalent for improving health. In August 2008, the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office awarded Millie its Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her unwavering dedication and outstanding commitment to highway safety in the great state of Tennessee.
A powerful speaker, Millie is invited to tell her story of hope and healing around the nation. She has been featured by numerous media organizations, including Woman’s Day magazine, FOX Television’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” “The Today Show” and “CNN Headline News,” in addition to being featured as one of America’s “Women to Watch” by NBC Nightly News. Millie was also featured as an ultimate 10 survivor on The Learning Channel’s “Ultimate 10 Survival Stories,” which profiled 10 people who have conquered deprivation, desperation and despair, surviving their darkest hours only to find new purpose in their lives. Millie’s inspiring story was told among other survivors including Senator John McCain and advocate for missing children John Walsh.
Millie and Roy live in Franklin, Tennessee, with their daughter Ashlea nearby in Nashville. Millie’s daughter, Kara Webb Hensel, her husband, David Hensel, and their two sons, Collin and Caston, reside in Spring Hill, TN. Today, Millie continues to volunteer for MADD serving as the Chair of the MADD Tennessee State Advisory Board Victim Services Committee.