Karl McMillen

Karl McMillen, born 09/19/1928 grew up in a young and developing Southern California. From an early age Karl displayed a drive for greatness; working many odds and ends jobs and soaking up knowledge and skillsets from every available source.

Karl started his working career plumbing track houses in the Southern California as a partner in Alert Plumbing. Later Karl went on to distributing plumber supplies all throughout So Cal and Las Vegas as the sole owner of Todd Pipe & Supply which had 9 locations and employed over 400 dedicated employees. Through Karl’s hard work and dedication, both businesses were huge successes.

Karl’s life can be broken down into 3 distinct parts. The first part was to study hard and get educated. (Karl graduated from USC with a degree in Business Finance)Then came working hard and making a lot of money; and now he’s giving it back.

In 2008 Karl and wife Carol started The McMillen Family Foundation which currently supports more than 70 different organizations. To date, the McMillen Family Foundation has donated over $29 million dollars to charities and foundations including but not limited to:

Thelma’s Place (Thelma McMillen Center @ Torrance Memorial), House of Hope, The Beacon House San Pedro, Charle Street, Alcoholism Center for Women, The Turning Point Home, Heartland House, and numerous Alano Clubs…

Karl’s amazing story of business success is counterbalanced by the emotional deaths of his first wife to cancer, and both his sons who spent much of their lives battling substance abuse. Karl, too, has struggled with alcoholism and now proudly carries his sobriety chip for over 20 years.

Karl may see himself as a “regular guy,” but to the countless number of former employees and customers, friends, family members and those in need that have been touched by Karl’s good will….he is anything but a regular guy.

More Karl McMillen News

Todd Pipe Wholesaler of the Year

LA Times Article – Thelma McMillen Center

The Re-Birth of Todd Pipe

Triumphs and Tragedies

A True Story of Wealth and Addiction

The Life of Karl B. McMillen, Jr. as told by Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas

Karl McMillen is America’s hard work ethic. He’s the guy Thomas Jefferson said will “determine never to be idle.” Babe Ruth’s “person who never gives up.”

Triumphs and Tragedies opens with a feral panorama of early twentieth century California; a last-gasp look at the West before it was “settled.” When hard work was still a fundamental, and “entitlement” just meant you were entitled to work your tail off. Karl’s success epitomizes that the cleanest hands in business are the ones that smeared the most elbow grease on their way up. Karl worked, and the system worked. Karl was said to have the “Golden Touch.”

But some systems break down; especially social systems. California – and all of America – changed as the wild wave to the 1960s swept so much of the country’s youth into the deep murkiness of drugs. Plenty of adults were plunged into realms over their heads, too. Karl encountered something his never-say-die work ethic and Golden Touch could not conquer: Addiction.

But Karl fought to apply his abilities to this strange new subject. Working hard now meant gathering data and the destructive force of drugs and analyzing treatments. It was a task he had the unique mental resolve and physical resources to undertake. And he uncovered so much.

Triumphs and Tragedies explores the down-and-dirty psychology of addiction through live “voices from the street.” It probes the essence of enabling and the value of “rehabs” – neither of which were common concepts in the sixties. It tests the senses, demonstrating how a perfect life can be traded for pain; but how that pain can translate into a strong antidote against one of society’s greatest ills.

A Lasting Legacy

As of December 2020, the McMillen Family Foundation has provided over $29 million in grants to Southern California non profit organizations “dedicated to helping men and women who have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by alcohol and / or drugs” and who “share our values and have produced tangible and measurable results.”

To keep the goodwill going, Karl’s multi-million-dollar-wholesale business, Todd Pipe, is set up to donate a full 20% of its profits to the McMillen Family Foundation ad infinitum, and the Foundation will inherit all of Karl’s personal shares. In this way, Karl’s story, his generosity, and his mission will live on into the future.

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