You may not know the name Todd Mills, but he was and forever will be a great American hero. The 41-year-old Arkansas resident passed away last week after a battle with brain cancer, but without him, Americans would have never known the deliciousness that is a taco cradled in a shell made of Doritos. But Mills's contribution to society isn't just a tasty late night snack — his story is also about never taking no for an answer.
In 2009, Mills had a brainstorm: Tacos with shells made out of Doritos. Even though he was just an average citizen, he pitched the idea to Frito-Lay ... and was rebuffed. "Thanks, but no thanks," his wife Ginger Mills told USA Today.
Undeterred from Frito-Lay's rejection, Mills started the "Taco Shells from Doritos Movement" Facebook page in 2009 to garner support for his idea. The page currently has almost 4,500 "likes" right now and features fun photoshops of pop culture icons and the Doritos taco like this "Hungry Games" one from February 2012:
The goal was simple: get people talking about the tacos so much that Taco Bell or Frito-Lay couldn't ignore it. Three years later it happened. USA Today reports:
In 2012, Todd Mills received a phone call from Taco Bell. The company was developing the prized creation — calling it the Doritos Locos Tacos — and wanted to fly Todd out to its test kitchen in California. He was among the first people to try the new product.
Mills documented the moment of truth on his Facebook page:
Because Mills followed his gut, and pursued it, Americans can now order Doritos Locos Tacos in one, not two, but three flavors! Meanwhile, Doritos Locos sales, according to the Huffington Post, have surpassed $1 billion.
Taco Bell said in August that they had sold over 600 million Doritos tacos since their launch in March of 2012. And Mills never saw one penny. Amazingly, it doesn't sound like he even wanted one. "Everybody that I tell about this says 'You should be getting some money off these," he told the Arkansas Times. "I've never once said that I deserved any sort of compensation ... I can't be the first person to think of this," he added.
According to his "Taco Shells made from Doritos Movement" Facebook page, Mills said he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer over the summer. He stepped down from his job as the vice president of media and information technology at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce in August. He underwent two brain surgeries, a lung surgery, and a round of chemotherapy, but passed away on Thanksgiving. His funeral was held on December 2.
In order to remember him and his glorious creation, people have been posting of pictures of themselves eating the tacos Mills willed into existence on his Facebook page:
"Todd being Todd, he never asked for anything. He said, 'I just want my tacos.'" his friend Jimmy Looney told USA Today.
Mills's friends and family set up a website to accept donations for his medical bills. (Taco Bell donated $1,000.) Those funds will now also go toward his funeral services.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.