By Jerry Miller, his final byline
Jerry Miller, professor emeritus of journalism at Franklin College, died reluctantly June 26, 2021 at Aspen Trace in Franklin, Ind., after a lengthy illness unrelated to COVID-19. He was 81.
Miller was born Dec. 21, 1939, in Hagerstown, Ind., to Irvin and Carmen Miller. He graduated in 1956 from Hagerstown High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, 4-H, Spanish Club, and school band. He was also a junior-high cheerleader (“Go, Tigers!”).
He received a National Merit Scholarship and attended Indiana University for one year. He graduated from the National Academy of Broadcasting in Washington, D. C., in 1959. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia State College in 1965 and his master’s degree in English and journalism from Ball State University in 1982.
After working as an announcer at radio stations in Coshocton, Ohio, and Charleston, W.Va., between 1959-1965, he was employed at the Marion, Ind., Chronicle-Tribune as a staff writer, columnist, and special editions editor from 1965-73 and again from 1976-83.
He began teaching full-time at Ball State from 1983-85 and, while there, conducted the first Midwest Writers Conference. He then joined the journalism faculty of Franklin, serving as department chair from 1989-92 and retiring in 2004. He served as a copy editor for the college’s alumni magazine from 2011-17.
An award bearing his name was created by the Pulliam School of Journalism in 2019 to reward an outstanding FC journalism student each year.
He was a free-lance magazine and newspaper writer for 50 years, with articles and photographs published in Sports Illustrated, People Weekly, USA Weekend, Sport, Family Digest, American Health, Outdoor America, Indianapolis Monthly, Johnson County Daily Journal, and Indianapolis Star South, among others. His articles won awards from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Best of Gannett, American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA), Hoosier State Press Association, 1989 Philadelphia Writers Conference, Associated Press Managing Editors (APME), and Road & Track magazine.
He was also the author of three published non-fiction books, Fast Company (1972), little stars (2000), and Whole Truths (2010). He was working on two other non-fiction books before he became ill.
Miller felt especially privileged to have interviewed and written the stories of such celebrated and interesting individuals as Loretta Lynn, Martin Sheen, Gwendolyn Brooks (the poet ate fig bars), Wolfman Jack, William Stafford, Carl Perkins, Russell Means, Jinx Dawson (“One Tin Soldier”), Tom Lehrer, Jeff Gordon (afternoon in Pittsboro), AJ. Foyt, Richard Petty, Eiffel Plasterer (“Bubble Man”), Willie T. Ribbs, and Bob Woodward, and covered and told the stories Pope John Paul II’s public mass in Chicago, two murder trials, Doo-Wop Heaven, the “Blizzard of 78”, fishing with his grandfather, his own cancer(s), a colleague’s tragic battle with AIDS, 35 Indianapolis 500’s, and the U.S. 500.
He was a member of SPJ, Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications, American Journalism Historians Association, Kappa Tau Alpha journalism honorary society, American Civil Liberties Union, AARWBA, Amnesty International, Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club, and North American Scrabble Players Association. He had also been a member of the First Amendment Congress until it dissolved.
He served as a Democratic precinct committeeman in Franklin from 1987-2005. He also held a lifetime first-class radiotelephone engineer’s license.
He competed in local, regional, and national Scrabble tournaments for several years and organized Indianapolis’ first sanctioned Scrabble club in 1986, serving as its director for 20 years. He also had competed in Texas Hold ‘em tournaments in the Indianapolis area in recent years.
He enjoyed reading, photography, classic movies, and oldies and blues music.
He considered himself to be spiritual but not religious (SBNR), a part-time practitioner of Zen, and a full-time contrarian. His personal heroes included Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Lot’s wife, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, Henry David Thoreau, William Stafford, Orson Welles, Leonard Cohen, Kurt Vonnegut, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Mandela, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Jigger Sirois.
Preceding Miller in death were his parents, his stepmother, Martha (Saul) Miller, Hagerstown, a son, Jeffrey A. Miller, Marion, a stepdaughter, Nisha K. Grimm, Franklin, an ex-wife, and the Oxford comma.
Surviving are his intrepid wife of 39 years, Sheron K. (Weatherholt) Miller, a half-brother, Eric Miller (Dawn), Hagerstown, a stepson, Adrian Grimm (Jessica), Massillon, Ohio, four grand- and step-grandchildren, twin ex-stepsons, Kirk Edwards, Frederick, Md., and Kevin Edwards, Baltimore, Md., an ex-wife, and the family cat, Maggie.
His last words reportedly were: “Finally, a square hole I will fit into!”
Friends may call 4-8 p.m., Thursday, July 1 at Swartz Family Community Mortuary, 300 South U.S. 31 (Morton Street), Franklin. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, July 2, at Swartz, with burial following at Greenlawn Cemetery, Franklin.
In lieu of flowers, donations would be welcomed for the Jerry Miller Award, Pulliam School of Journalism, Franklin College, 101 Branigin Blvd. Franklin, IN, 46131, or the Nisha Grimm Scholarship Fund, Franklin Community Foundation, 398 S. Main St., Franklin, IN, 46131.