The first time I got "Millerized," in other words, when Gene helped me rework a story into something I couldn't recognize but was true to the facts and theme and was infinitely better than my original, I mentioned to him that, in ninth grade, I delivered a report to my English class on "83 Hours Until Dawn". "Really?" he said, and smiled. And went back to work on my work. I'm lucky to have worked in a time when a newspaper could keep a Gene Miller around...
I grew up in South Florida. Gene's amazing work on the Pitts and Lee case sparked my interest and passion in journalism. He was a blunt-force reporter. The Miami Herald was a blunt-force newspaper. No. B.S. Thank you Gene, for attracting me to a noble craft.
A legend long before he passed, who leaves a legacy to remind us that behind the blinds of today's globalized, .com world lurk the same humanity -- good and not so good -- that shaped it. Honoring that is the best we can do. And the "we" extends beyond the press club.
We pray that God forever bless the family of Mr. Gene Miller, his book turned the town of Port St. Joe Florida upside down and in those days it took a person with a lot of heart to do that. I should know it is my home town.
Many years ago--sometime in the 1970s--Gene contacted me while he visited Chicago and, over coffee, asked me about two thousand questions concerning someone or something he was researching. He never told me who or what it was he was searching, but when he got the answers he wanted he scribbled a brief line in a small notebook. I believe he got everything he wanted from me and I got nothing from him, which is the hallmark of a great reporter. When you add to that that he was a great human being you have a very special person. His passing was a deep loss to fine journalism. We need more of him, a lot more, and we need them now!
Jay Robert Nash
Bloodletters and Badmen,
Terrorism in the 20th Century,
So many years later ... 1969 or 1970... I well remember the trip which Gene, Warren Holmes and I took to Raiford Penitentiary to interview Curtis Adams - he was the alleged perpetrator of the crime for which Pitts and Lee served many years on death row - their cause was another noble one which Gene and Holmes took on. What a fine and forthright man!
Well - this is long "after the fact," so to speak. I was actually just randomly looking things up on the internet when I came across this
guest book. Nevertheless, I often remember Gene with great fondness! I
actually did not know him that well but his kindness and compassion
were obvious to me!! I was especially impressed when he gave a gong that he had gotten in the Far East to his stepson Daniel when he was Bar Mitzvahed. Gene was without a doubt an intelligent, interesting and most importantly a caring man! I really AM sorry we could not keep him around a little longer - especially so he could be with Caroline and Daniel!
Two days ago, as I was driving in my car, I was thinking about Gene Miller and his wonderful relationship with my mother, Janet Chusmir. Then this evening, quite by accident, I came across this Guest Book. I'm sorry that I had no idea, or I would have written sooner. My deepest condolences for the loss of a great journalist, and a great friend of the Chusmir family. However belated, my thoughts and prayers and with you all.
thank you for let me sign your guest book
I read this book back in 1976 and did a paper on this book in 7th grade and shocked my teacher for reading a book that was so past my other 7 grade friends .
Every few years i keep picking up the book and reread it over and over again.
I must have read it by now 12 times and my copy is very thread warn.
I like to find it again but that is all but a dream.
I Would love to know how barbara jean is doing at this time as she must be about 54 now.
Great book and done very nicley, got to refind another copy
I always meant to thank Gene for speaking at my mother in law's funeral. Hopefully, his family will read this and know what a great friend and inspiration he was to Janet. I send my sincere condolences.
A great man.
Michael Locker MD
Nov. 27, 2005
I worked as an editor on the national desk in the 1980s and occasionally I was assigned to tackle the long weekend features emblematic of The Herald.
One weekend, I was working on a piece by Edna Buchanan and she asked if she could get into the story for a moment to make a few fixes.
I agreed and she then proceeded to "reverse Millerize" her copy, expunging about all his editing.
Gene noticed the changes, turned 12 shades of purple, as I recall, and restored his edits.
The moral? Never trust a reporter? Never trust an editor? I'm not certain.
But I do know that those crossed swords helped stoke a creative era unlike any I've witnessed since.
Gene Miller changed my life, as he did so many of us here, and I hope that pleased him.
He recruited me to The Miami Herald fresh out of graduate school. He made me feel honored every time he plucked one of my stories out of the system and Millerized it onto the front page. And he prepared some of the best dang martinis with olives a girl could ask for.
Yes, when it came to working with Gene (and I was fortunate to have had the experience a number of times -- and it was an "experience"), he let me know who was in the editorial driver's seat. But he always treated me and my work with his incredible generosity of spirit, humor, wisdom, and boundless skill.
Now that I am teaching as well as writing, I find myself channeling Gene as best I can. My hope is that the students will learn to simplify, simplify, simplify, and that they will go on to make a difference as journalists and as human beings in ways that would make Gene proud.
My condolences to your family, and I hope the loving words and wonderful memories here provide you some comfort.
I, too, was one of the fortunate young Miami Herald reporters to work in the same newsroom as Gene during the late 1970s. A quarter-century later, one quote still stays with me. It was a Herald story on why Gene Miller was sent out of South Florida to cover yet another major news story. ``Gene Miller,'' the story went, ''is the guy you want to cover the end of the world.''
I remember as a young Herald reporter being awed by his coverage of the Tampa Bay bridge collapse. Gene found the guy whose tires stopped inches from the abyss -- because he'd cut himself shaving that morning. I remember him passing by in the hallway at Miller Warp Speed winking over the bowtie like a proud father while I chatted with a young woman I was dating. Every moment of life was juice for Gene. In the Herald's heydey, the Miller Era, the client was truth but the story was good ol' human nature more than any newspaper I've read since, not just "Rough Draft of History" but "Homer in a Hurry" and that was Miller's gift,to his readers and all uf us. Like so many I was "Millerized" on deadline but more in the soul, Gene's baptism of Herald journalism as story. Not politcs, not social science, not a pale chronicle of citizens and voters but wonderful outrageous South Florida human beings trying to make it through the day. I remember a jaunty stylish Runyonesque thin man who raced everywhere; was it just me, or did he seem to vibrate in space when standing still? I think of him every time I read a newspaper. Some editors today call it "information," but Gene made us see what it really was before the biologists called it "the voice of the species," and of course he put it more succinctly and better than anyone. I remember a flame of energy and genius who'd hustle you out the door, and eventually on to New York or Washington or St. Pete, heart pounding with Miller's simple shouted incantation: "What a story!"
I dare say they haven't made them like this for a few decades. It's nice to hear what a judge of talent he was, since he hired me once and tried to hire me a second time. I wrote exactly one Herald story worth his attention, and it was one he'd handed me. It reported that several appellate judges had rebuked county prosecutors for going overboard in the ferocity of their trial arguments. He want to personalize the lede to refer to "State Attorney Janet Reno's prosecutors" getting raked over the coals. He was right, of course. As I recall, I was too dumb to listen. The Herald was a special place once upon a time, and a lot of it was him.
I remember getting "Millerized" once. I never wrote that well again. But to me, more than an editor, Gene was a talent-compass -- the one man I trusted to read the clips of job candidates and tell me which ones he thought were worth it. From kids barely out of college to reporters who had spent time at major newspapers, his compass always pointed north. I would bet that everyone who's passed through the foreign desk since about 1993 had his clips read by Gene. Yep, he won two Pulitzers and edited great stories. But I see some of his best work every time I come to the office.
I got Millerized once. A story about "Brother Bill," a crazy gun dealer in Pahokee who was the head of a religious sex cult. (Gad, I miss the weirdness density of SFla...) I showed up with what must have been hundreds of inches of copy and reams of notes. And in one afternoon, he taught me how to figure out what I really had -- what was printable and important and what wasn't. Yup, the several days of writing/editing were an adventure. Like riding a horse that always wanted to run just a little faster than I thought was safe. And of course the story ran 1A. Almost 20 later,I still consciously use the lessons of that one experience pretty much every day.
Dear Caroline, Melissa and I were on vacation and did not hear about Gene's passing until after we returned last week. We are deeply saddened by your loss and hope your wonderful memories of Gene will bring you comfort and some smiles during this difficult time. He was a wonderful man.
Steven and Melissa
I have been moved by all the personal remembrances about my father. He had many great accomplishments, one of them being that he touched so many lives.
Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your memories.
Oh, my. What a loss! I was not in town when the service occured but I would have cheered him nonetheless. I have known Gene from the time I moved here with first husband, Peter Gardiner, and we played duplicate bridge with the HERALD group. Such fun and challange. Many lovely and talented opponents. Electra recruited me to be active in the Harvard Club and am grateful for her support. I have admired Gene's skill in journalism and social situations and enthusiasm for everything he undertook. My last encountern with him was dashing into the FL grand Opera performance when he proudly announced that he had married a Harvard lawyer and was very happy! If he said he was healthy except for a little cancer, I do not remember. Per his instruction, I shall raise a glass-white wine- in celebration of a fabulous career!
As for me, I shall also write my own vita and plan a musical event to which all are encouraged to "come colorful" and party afterward. Thanks, Gene!! Hugs, jan
Gene Miller was the greatest gift to journlism and I continue to be inspired by his righteous legacy of doing good journalism.
This is a great American: a thoughtful, proud, humble man of character. His son Tom's approach to life is a testament to his values and personnae.
Tell the tale.
Twenty-four years later, I can still hear Gene Miller’s mantra. Millerization is sometimes summarized in words such as staccato and simplify. Fair enough.
What I remember is this:
Don’t spend seven paragraphs telling the reader why they should read the long story that follows. Set the table with a snappy sentence or two. Make clear why the story is important in perhaps one more sentence. Then, tell the tale. Start to finish, chronologically. Don’t give away a bunch of stuff early. Build tension, let events unfold, save something sweet for the kicker.
1981. I was 24-year-old reporter in the Herald’s one-person bureau in Fort Pierce, Fla., filing two stories a day to fit a half-page zoned edition. Learned to write on deadline. Trouble was, I wondered if anyone in Miami saw the zoned edition. So I searched for stories that would make the full Sunday paper. Some of my offerings about drug kingpins and charlatans began to catch Miller’s eye.
Miller liked my reporting. What he wanted to teach me was the other half: story telling. I watched as he boiled those seven paragraphs down to two. Strike that. He boiled seven paragraphs to two. I soaked it up.
Soon, I was packing my bags, and figured Miller had a hand in that. I was heading out of Fort Pierce to cover South Beach _ something about a scandalous plan to tear down hundreds of Art Deco buildings and kick out thousands of residents. Turned out to be a good assignment.
Tell the tale, Miller said. Better yet, let the tale tell itself.
When the Vietnam memorial was to be dedicated in Washington D.C., I
wanted to cover it because my brother's name appears on it.
Pete Weitzel said to me, "Let me get this straight: You want to go to Washington to make a color photo of a black wall for Page 1?"
"Yes," I assured him. "It will be colorful."
I flew up and back the same day. While I was at the light table editing the film, the duty officer declared, "We don't put photo illustrations on 1A."
You see, I had made a double exposure of the statue of three soldiers near the memorial (which was colorful) and placed them in the black granite wall of names (to add the color). Now here I was, back from the assignment with a color photo of the black wall for Pete only to be stopped by the duty officer and the alleged no-illustrations rule.
By some great stroke of luck, Gene Miller happened to be walking by. Now, I knew Gene knew what a good photo was, regardless, so I flagged him over to the light table and asked what he thought.
Gene looked at the photo for precisely one second and roared: "Great picture -- stupid rule! Put it on the front!" Then he kept on walking.
The photo ran on 1A the next day, and it was indeed colorful, and I always loved Gene for that.
“Damn cops won’t talk. Go see ‘em. Wear the red skirt.”
Wear the red skirt?! What the hell kind of newsroom is this?
It was Gene’s newsroom, of course.
I went home, put on jeans.
Plus, tennis shoes. (Gene had voted for heels.)
Then I went out and got the story. All of it. Every bit.
Next day, I tossed my pad on Gene’s desk.
“Didn’t need the skirt,” I said.
“I know that!” he hollered. “But I sure got you fired up, didn’t I?”
Yep. He sure did.
Gene wasn’t P.C. He didn’t care what H.R. thought. He hated think tanks, big meetings, company check-mark evaluations. He liked typewriters, personal notes, slaps on the back.
He loved … stories. Not just the tales themselves, but the chase.
And that’s why he was utterly unconcerned by the notion that perhaps he should not, if you wanted to split hairs, order a reporter into a red skirt. Hell, it could look bad.
Hell, who cared?
He knew one of two things would happen. Either the skirt would get the story, or the reporter would get it, in her blue jeans, just to show Gene. Not to impress him, exactly. But to buoy him. Because he was best that way, bobbing up and down on a never-ending sea of stories. If Gene sank, the entire newsroom would drown.
I still have that skirt. It’s 15 years old, and I keep it because it’s a classic, and they don’t make them that way anymore.
Never did a Herald editor do so much to improve a story, and claim credit so little. Instead, he praised the work of his colleagues as if we were equals, his contribution known only to us. There will never be another one. Thank you, Gene.
I'm very sorry for your loss.
I read you for years. Thanks for the memories.........
Back in the early 90s, stories of Gene circulated among us Neighbors reporters ... I had read about him, met him briefly a few times, always looked up to him. Then one of my pieces was selected to be "Millerized". I felt honored and terrified. Most words in my story turned out to be unnecessary. Surprisingly, the shortened piece spoke more. Gene taught me two lessons during the editing: 1. Capture all details, and 2. Pick only the best words. I seriously questioned whether it was possible to do so simultaneously. I admired his energy as I continued to struggle in abbreviating while expanding detail. Gene was truly the master.
I was saddened to hear of Gene's passing from one of my former Herald colleagues. I have often thought of Gene and that "Millerized" article after departing the journalism profession. Since then, I found a career in rural health care, where I now capture details and write reports. In retrospect, Gene's lessons were good preparation for life: It's too short. We need to pay careful attention and say meaningful words while we have the opportunity.
Gene - here's to good stories, great lessions, and a life well lived!
My mom called me yesterday. She said she had bad news... I knew she was about to tell me that someone had passed away. I just never imagined that she would say that it was Gene Miller.
Teri, Jan, Tommy and Robin, I am so, so sorry.
I grew up just around the corner from the Millers. Teri and I were the best of friends all through our primary school years. The first time I shaved my legs, it was with Mr. Millers razor. Funny, the things we remember, isn't it. I also remember sitting on the floor, Mr. Miller sitting on a piano bench and reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and trips to Crandon Park Beach on Christmas day. I remember his smile, huge, from ear to ear.
Sorry to see you go Mr. Miller. You'll be missed.
Teri, If you read this... Please get in touch with my mom. I'd love to see you again.
Nancy (Brenner) Rivera
There's a gap in the world I know without Gene in it.
Ijust drank that martini, Gene. God bless, my friend.
I think about the times I got to work with Gene. One story stands out, a Local front piece from 1988 about a Coral Gables zoning inspector suspected of being on the take.
The police set a trap. After the 56-year-old inspector apparently pocketed $200 in marked bills, the cops and his bosses strip-searched him looking for the cash. They didn't find it.
Reporter Geoffrey Biddulph and I wrote the first draft. Not bad, but not special. Gene reworked it. As he did, he said the words aloud:
“Inspectors for Coral Gables are a fussy bunch who protect The City Beautiful from illegal dog houses, pup tents and pickup trucks parked indiscriminately.
So the city flipped out when it heard that some of its inspectors were on the take. In came undercover cops, unmarked cars and marked bills.
Monday, after tape-recording an alleged bribe, police made one of the city's zoning inspectors take off all his clothes in an attempt to find the evidence.
But the nude man wasn't hiding anything.''
Gene paused, then spoke: “Can we say that? We can say that. Let's say THAT!''
I never met Mr. Miller, but when my late husband, Jim Neubacher, was sent to San Francisco to cover the Patty Hearst kidnapping for the Detroit Free Press, he was as thrilled to be working with Gene Miller as he was to be searching for the missing heiress. He said that no one was as good at getting the details that make a story come alive as Gene. He often recalled how much he had learned from his time with Gene. I was sorry to hear about his death, and sorrier still that I had never met him in life. Now I'm going to have a martini!
Hi relatives and friends of Gene -- we were young reporters together onThe Herald in the late '50's and early '60's. All ther accolades and tributes are deserved. Gene was a pleasure to go on assignment with, split a by-line with, and have a beer afterward with. Red Swift
One day when I was a young editor on the Herald's City Desk, Gene stood up in the reporter area and yelled to me, "Don't ever put a head that's wrong on one of my stories again!"
Didn't know that I had, and Rich Archbold said, "Ah, that's just Gene testing a new editor." Maybe so, but you can't quite imagine what it felt like to have Gene Miller, maybe journalism's greatest reporter, yelling at you from 20 feet away--in front of everyone.
As a result, I don't think I ever put a bad head on one of Gene's stories again. Nonetheless, Gene seemed EXTREMELY happy when he and Electra threw a going-away dinner years later for me (and for Sara Rimer, as I recall).
You'll be amused to know that I still can't write something for you, or about you, without thinking about it for days, worried that I won't put it just the right way.
Now, normally, I'd just get up and go secretly smoke a cigarette and think about it some more, but it's too damn hot in Houston today to go stand on the sidewalk outside the building where my new bosses might see me.
(By the way, the pool temperature here today is about 80 degrees.)
So, to hell with it, as you'd say. You're just gonna have to let this one go by unedited:
You gave me heart. You pushed me to help save the lives of the poor - and we did it. You were my friend. You were a confidant.
You had my trust. You had my love.
You helped me keep the faith at the Miami Herald and you kept me laughing all the way, even as you faced your own struggles.
I love you for your journalism and inspiration. But I love you more for the simple fact that you so loved to share your life with others.
Thanks, Gene. I miss you.
Dear Robin - I always knew your dad was great, but not for any of these amazing things that he did, but because he had you as a daughter. I am so sorry to hear about his death. Please call me sometimes.
Gene Miller always kept a bounce in his step, even as budget
cuts and hand wringing over the future of newspapers clouded
newsrooms. A single reporter, a single story, can make a
difference, Gene said. Reading the tributes to him here, it's
clear that a single editor can, too. We love you, Gene.
Gene brought out the champion in me.
Whether he was shredding my copy or helping retrace a gunman’s steps, chiding me for smoking or guiding me on how to get a raise, he always communicated a contagious joy.
Gene was the ultimate skeptic, but he could look into dark places and find them full of sunshine.
He lit my passion for righting wrongs.
When I fretted over the business or dripped sarcasm about a greedy publisher, Gene would tell me with gusto, “Freedberg, the problem with you is that you think too much.’’
Nothing gave Gene more joy than his children and Caroline. He was so utterly proud of them. He celebrated every new baby and promotion and trial victory like it was his own.
And when in-laws came into his life, that love and pride was endless for them as well.
Every Thanksgiving, new faces would appear at the Electra/Gene orphan dinner. Eventually, they needed a bigger table.
That may be Gene’s greatest lesson: Friends are the family we make for ourselves and Gene made a family of the world.
Carry on his work.
Gene took great delight when his offfice was moved on the edge of the newsroom closest to the publiser's luxurious digs so that he could haunt me - then the first 'bean counter" publisher who oversaw his outrageous comments about my performance. Was shocked but undaunted when I started a weekly column - and even praised a few.
My greaest days occured when I could stick my head in his office and ask why I had scooped the entire newsroom with my column. He usually answered with some humbling comment, and then left for a three hour lunch consisting of swiming the entire length of Biscayne Bay.
No one cared more about the traditions and independence of The Miami Herald in those days.
I am a better person because he crossed my life and taught me some valuable lessons along the way. His family can find so much comfort from the incredible collection of people he influenced so profoundly.
Come to South Florida and we'll change your life, Gene Miller said.
So many important lessons in this craft were learned at the computer terminal with him, as he moved cumbersome language and quotations that weren't quite right to the bottom of the screen, until you realized that you didn't need them.
In my memory, The Miami Herald will always be the place where Gene was a newsman, where he spoke his mind, where he taught others who thought we already knew it all.
Thank goodness we had Gene.
Gene you once kicked my butt gently and always encouraged me loudly. I appreciate the latter, but truly treasure the former. You helped me figure out just what the heck this gig was all about. You were a good guy and you are already missed.
In every decade The Herald has had leaders and legend-makers; Gene was unique in being both for nearly 50 years, the most conspicious landmark on an island in an archipeligo of passing ships. Maybe most fortunate are those who knew him when he was just one damn good young newsman among many, rubbing shoulders with Denne Petitclerc, William Kennedy, George Southworth, Juanita Green, Andy Taylor, Tom Lownes, Jon Nordheimer, Mel Ziegler, Gail Godwin and so many others. With his generosity of spirit, Gene might ask mourners to give thought to departed colleagues such as Charley Ward, Jack Thale, Art Himbert, Dick Rundell, Jim Miller, Whitey Kelley, Luther Evans, Derick Daniels, Bill Montalbano, Janet Chusmir...any old-timer could add numerous names attached to anecdotes, unrecorded and now mostly unremembered. How many besides Gene could recall when The Herald's first Pulitzer, hanging unpretentiously on a wall, was surreptitiously removed one midnight, colorfully wrapped and passed through numerous hands until presented by an unsuspecting managing editor to Jim Miller at his poolside farewell party hosted by Tony and Betty Garnet and attended by boisterous dozens? From 1957 when Gene and Electra first moved into an unimposing apartment up around NE 55th St., they fostered camaraderie, hosting cityroom luminaries and homeless alike, evenings that were lively and literate. He could be amusingly truculent, a Luddite rejecting an electric typewriter whose loss he would soon enough bemoan when it was replaced by a computer. To truly appreciate him, though, was to work rewrite on such stories as the Carl Coppolino murder trial in Naples during which a newsroom learned to spell succinylcholine. He might make editors fidget and copyboys run but he always knew just how close he could shave a deadline. He'd come on the phone with a quip and a lede and several paragraphs jotted or in his head, and if he were giving notes they'd typically be as smooth and organized as most finished stories. His confidence in the competence of colleagues made working with him exhilarating and gratifying. Here was a solid friend and cheerful groomsman who enlivened at least one wedding and countless parties. Not many know that in the early 1960s his "Miami Mafia" friends arranged for him to come to San Francisco, a hiring he indignantly and properly nixed when the Chronicle's accountant balked at paying his moving expenses. Sometimes history is determined by the road not traveled, and what an unwitting favor some long forgotten bean-counter did for Miami. We can regret that Gene typed his final # too soon, but take solace that as the unquestioned avatar of Miami journalism he continues to make all the stars that have surrounded him shine a little brighter.
Between our Jr and Sr years of high school, Gene and I hitch-hiked from Evansville to New York city and back. He had devised a plan to locate each other by free long distance calls if we took separate rides. It was very clever,but fortunately we never had to employ it. Our trip was quite an experience for two small town guys. We shared our first Manhattan in Manhattan. He was one of those you remember with happiness for all your life. It was a great trip. Rest well, Gene. We'll always remember you. Ralph Yates
Gene never understood my interest in public opinion polling. I never understood his interest in martinis. But just before I left the Herald in the late 1980s, Gene acknowledged that he had enjoyed writing stories off the results of something he called the “Joe Smith Poll.”
It seems that back in the 1960s, when big news broke, Miller and other Herald reporters would go to the newspaper morgue (er, news research center) and gather up telephone books from cities around the country. They would flip to the pages listing numbers for “Joseph Smith.” Then they would call and interview as many Joe Smiths as they could. The resulting story ran with a "Joe Smith Poll" sig.
I thought about Gene and the Joe Smith poll a few nights ago as I enjoyed a martini, Boodles dry and neat with two olives. Rather tasty—you were right again, Gene.
June 23, 2005
Dear Mrs. Miller:
I was saddened to hear the passing of your husband. I first met Gene Miller through Dr. Joe Davis. I am a Forensic Dentist and at the time was working on the Ted Bundy case. Your husband was my first real contact with a member of the press and I must tell you that I was impressed with his style, honesty and integrity. During the 70’s he contacted me several times regarding the Bundy case and subsequently in the 80’s on other cases that I was working that had particular interest to him. I was able to talk to him without worrying that he might misinterpret what I said or print something that I asked him not to print. That never happened. In the early 90’s I was asked to give a lecture at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences on the Ethics in the press both electronic and print media. I called your husband, he provided me with a code of ethics for the Herald as well as for most journalist. I was impressed because there is an actual written Code of Ethics for the printed media but not one for the electronic (television).
Your husband was helpful to me in so many ways over a 25 year period of time. I wish that I could have gotten to know him better. He was a great professional and very few journalists have achieved the pinnacle of success that your husband did. His work with the Pitts and Lee case shows the power of the press.
It was a real honor and privilege to have known Gene Miller.
RICHARD R. SOUVIRON, D.D.S.
Gene was an incredible role model. He reinforced my core values as a journalist and helped me develop the tools I needed to help put them into action. These are things I've kept with me and which continue to influence my work at the deepest levels. I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends, but also my hearty congratulations for being a part of his life.
University of Miami
Here's one more former intern happy to have been collected by Gene.
When I arrived in Miami from Austin in 1989, I went straight to the Herald to pick up keys to his house: Gene was off on vacation, as it happened, and I had been willingly been roped into house-sitting. Heady stuff it was for a 21-year-old to recline in the backyard hammock of a Pulitzer Prize winner.
I ended up mostly in editing jobs, but while reporting, when I found myself with 50 inches of jumbled copy on a wayward cop, I knew where to go. Gene reworked it into 15 lively inches, and off I went.
He always had a smile for me, and I am grateful.
At first (1981, when I first came to The Herald), he was the Pulitzer Prize winner. when he came to the library, his requests were always preceded with 'at your leisure'....But how could you not rush to help such a distinguished reporter?
Over the years Gene would bring letters or stories to me to read. He'd ask me to find things he needed to send to correspondents. We argued about relevance of something I'd put in a corruption chronology.
Then there would be an occasional lunch.
He talked about his illness, knew he wasn't around long and he was making the most of it. He was proud that he'd managed to get his family together for a cruise and other reunions. He was taking his grandchildren on special trips. He always went to Tanglewood for the music.
On my last day in the newsroom last fall, it was Gene who took me out for a lavish lunch (on The Herald, of course). It was the last time I saw him. But a couple months later, there was the email: just wanted to know if you were still around if I needed you.
Of course, I am, Gene. Always. Proud to have been your friend. One of so many....
I have a lot of memories of Gene during my decade in Miami, but none more poignant than this one:
I was city editor at the Herald from 1992-1995, and had fought a number of battles over stories that seemed to offend one party or another.
But nothing fully prepared me for the most unpleasant, when we had to write an obit for a prominent businessman whose checkered past included a conviction tied to Jimmy Hoffa and some unbecoming associations with Nixon's campaign funds.
The orders came from on high that we were to downplay all mentions of the businessman's felonious past in the obituary and ensure that absolutely none of it ran before the jump, even though it was well known and was as much a part of his life as any business accomplishment.
No argument was going to win the day. Put the bad stuff way deep into the story, we were told, or face the consequences.
Feeling despondent, I went into Gene's office and told him the situation. For once, he was stunned into silence. Then, seeing how I was even more depressed, he pulled out a piece of paper. "I've been saving this for you," he said. "It's a list of Miami Herald city editors going back years. Lee Hills. Al Neuharth. John Brecher..."
Then he turned and said, "Grueskin, you're as good as any of 'em."
I'm not sure he was right about that, but for at least that moment I believed him. And I was able to go back to work the next day.
I was lucky to land in Gene's newsroom for five years in the '90s. His wit and wisdom left an indelible impression. What's most remarkable: He was a great newsman, but an even better person.
It is an honor for me to have known Gene, my good friend Janet's father. Through the years I saw him many times, ususally at her home. He always had a smile and talked to you as if he had known you forever. He never called me by my name, but he never called me "champion" or "miller" either. I guess he knew who I wasn't. After many family dinners I realized he knew many important and interesting people. He was so humble, however, as is his daughter, that it wasn't until many years later that I found out he had won two Pulitzers and had a direct hand in getting four people off Death Row and freed.
Gene, there is a special place in heaven just for you. God bless you.
My deepest condolences to Caroline and Daniel and all the Millers and especially to you, Janet, my dear, dear friend.
23 June 2005
Gene Miller was laid to rest this week. He wrote his own obituary saying he was in "excellent health...except for a fatal disease." The way he met the challenge of his illness was an inspiration to me and the essence of the man.
Gene Miller was friend. We were the same age. Gene was a newspaperman. I was an attorney and a professor.
We listened to classical music together while at concerts or while
driving in his car. We argued about the merits of various athletes while sitting next to one another at Marlins baseball games. We discussed politics and world events while enjoying a martini in a restaurant or at his home.
Gene was a true renaissance man. Every hour spent with him was an education.
My time with him was a treasure. His family, friends and the entire community has lost an irreplaceable jewel.
Gene was buried this week. But our memories of his booming voice, happy outlook and smiling face will never be buried.
610 West End Street
Aspen, CO 81611
During my first week as art director for Tropic Magazine, I met Gene Miller in the elevator with John Knight, who was trying not to stare at my plastic sandals. Gene was trying not to laugh. I didn't know who john Knight was, but he looked 6th floor, so I tried to tuck my feet up under my knees and complimented Mr. Knight on his tie.
He said, "I don't believe we've met."
Gene said, "Leon's our new art director at Tropic. (he was flat out grinning now), "but he's very creative." Gene was enjoying this.
Mr. Knight said, "I see."
Gene said, "You will."
Then he winked at me, and in that moment, I wanted to be a part of the Herald team and be the best I could be.
We worked hard. We had fun.
I first became acquainted with Gene's work in the early 1960s when I was a 13-year-old Herald paperboy in Fort Lauderdale, reading his stories as I folded papers on the curb of the local 7-11. Years later, as a writer for the UF college newspaper, Gene was a legend among student journalists, the gold standard for young reporters to aspire to, the guy who saved innocent people from the electric chair. This was shortly before Woodward and Bernstein came to the fore, and it was empowering to realize a journalist could make such an indelible imprint on society. At the time I had no idea what Gene Miller looked or acted like. He was simply a mythical character who, sight-unseen, became my journalistic icon. In 1975, as a cub court reporter for the late, great Tampa Times, my first trial assignment was the Ed Gurney case. I can't tell you how nervous I was to learn Gene Miller was covering the trial for the Herald. Although I remained in awe of Gene for the six month trial, he couldn't have been nicer or more generous. I was far too intimidated to actually ask him for advice, but he occasionally gave gentle hints and tips that I've never forgotten. On the first day of court he leaned over and asked me who I thought Gurney's attorney, C. Harris Dittmar, looked like. I hadn't even thought about it and gave a lame reply. He pointed to a name circled on his notepad: "Jiminy Cricket," it said. Of course, he'd nailed Dittmar perfectly, and opened a door in my still-callow writers mind. Unlike my old friend, Angel Castillo Jr., I didn't consider Gene a competitor. He was someone to watch and learn from. But I did cherish his occasional positive comments to me about my coverage. I think he was just being nice, but it was incredibly encouraging for a young, green reporter to have Gene Miller give even the faintest praise. I ran into Gene a couple of times after the Gurney trial, and he even gave me an autographed copy of “Invitation to a Lynching.” I never told him, but he remained my role model so for 26 years. I spent a career trying to live up to his uncompromising standards. He was an unrepentant crusading reporter who fought for the little guy. In an era of big corporate news monopolies, he was first a foremost a servant not of bean counters, but of the public. He makes me proud to have been a journalist.
When he called me "Champion," I believed him. Thanks, Gene.
In 1991 after UF journalism professor Buddy Davis survived a near-fatal heart attack, I told Gene about Buddy's decision to write his own obit. Buddy said he didn't want some 22-year-old kid who never knew him to write about his life. Miller loved it; wanted a copy for the Herald's futures file. I agreed to be the go-between and Buddy sent a copy to Gene. Gene wrote me on Feb. 8, 1991: "It's much too stuffy. He is a fascinating guy and the obit ought to reflect it. Why don't you give it a shot?" This former Herald staffer and journalism professor's heart froze: rewrite a Pulitzer winner's autobiographical obit and be Millerized? Jeez. Three rewrites later--April 3, '91---I survived--"You get better all the time. Any changes, give me a call. Why don't you use this in The Alligator when we publish?" Buddy hung in there until last year. Gene ran the obit under my byline in August. Less than a year later, we'd read Gene's own obit. Talk about a pair of fellow travelers sipping martinis in the heavenly clouds. The place will never be the same. Here or there.
How ya doin’?
As Gene referred to me in his own obituary, I’m the smart aleck son. Gene’s suggestion: “Tom, you just might want to give a eulogy at my service.” He then went on to add.
• Go first
• Keep it short – 5 minutes.
• Read it out loud 20 times
Most of you know Gene from his newspaper life. Well this is a different perspective.
It starts at a USO dance in late 1951, Gene walks over to a woman to ask her to dance. Before he gets there, she turns to dance with someone else. He asked our mother, Electra, instead. They met at Christmas, engaged 6 weeks later on Valentines and married on Easter Sunday 1952. A romance that produced Janet, Teri, Robin and me and one that lasted 41 years.
Having a newspaperman as a father was different. Gene recognized this. He threatened to break our fingers if we went into journalism.
He worked late 5 nights a week taking off Sundays and Mondays. He wasn’t there for dinner but he always saw us off to school.
Frequently on Monday afternoons, we would pile into “Old Howie” or “Apollo Monster” – yes Gene named the family cars – for a picnic dinner at Crandon Park Beach.
Gene’s favorite vacations were those where we did nothing. Two weeks in a North Carolina mountain cabin with no paper, no phone, no TV was his favorite.
We found out about Elvis’ alleged death days later.
In a restaurant, without fail, when the waitress went to hand the bill to Gene, he would ask for 6 separate checks and roar at the waitresses’ expression. The kids always talked about a set-up with separate checks ready to go -- Gene’s advice:
“Do it now,
Do it right,
Do it ‘right’ now’”
True, Gene would often call people “Champion.” This was so he would have cover when he couldn’t remember some young reporter’s name. Well, he called his family Miller for the same reason.
It could be worse. He could come up with a nickname he liked and you didn’t.
As a 9th grader playing football, Gene yelled from the sideline “Pick it off Tiger.” In the huddle someone asked “Who’s Tiger?” Silence. Unfortunately, I did pick it off. Next series, Gene yells “pick another one off Tiger.” Jeez.
It was even worse with pictures. If he took a picture of you that he liked, it would be displayed prominently in the home. So for years, I was on the fridge giving my son his first bath wearing only my son.
Gene was Doktor to his 8 grandchildren. Doktor is part of a self proclaimed title:
"His Lord and Master of the Household His Majesty, Doktor Miller the Grandfather, Sir"
Gene, Caroline and Dan would take a grandchild on vacation with them
• Alexander to Scotland
• Emily to the Grand Canyon
• Zachary to Canada
• Nicholas to Amelia Island
• Matthew to Cooperstown
• And Doktor and Lauren solo to see Broadway Musicals in New York
Sonia and Daniel, the youngest grandchildren, you were cheated! Caroline and Dan have promised to continue.
Gene loved music. If he hadn’t had such a strong desire to be a newspaperman, he would have been a musician. He won the Indiana State Oboe Championship, and played First Oboe for the Evansville Symphony Orchestra while in high school during the War.
He regularly attended the Florida Philharmonic and the New World Symphony. In the past dozen years, as part of his “continuing adult education”, he went to concerts by Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead (in the corporate sky box, of course).
Gene always counted the oddest things. He frequently used that information in his stories. He also made lists. He came to Miami with a 5-year plan. That was 1957. Guess Miami didn’t get crossed off the list or somehow he lost count.
Gene loved Miami – always good copy. He became a huge local sports fanatic. He sat next to his grandson, Row 4 right behind home plate, when the Marlins won the 1997 World Series.
The Miller house, whether in Westchester, on the Beach or in South Miami, was open for “Herald holiday orphans” or last minute guests, or the kids’ friends who always called him “Mean Gene” or “Gene Baby” or even a dozen spring breakers.
In the Paris Subway this past January, Gene dressed like a hick from Indiana in a bright green jacket and a camera around his neck, had his wallet lifted by a significantly larger and significantly younger man. Gene chased the thief out the subway door telling him “give-it-back, give-it-back.” He snatched his wallet in time to jump back in the train as Caroline held the door open.
In true Gene fashion, he tried not to make a big deal about it. But when he told Robin about the incident, Jan and Lou, who were in the hotel room next door, heard every word.
Gene truly did not like the lime light. He hated giving speeches and rarely did. He kept his Pulitzers in a drawer until the 1990s. That doesn’t mean they weren’t important. They were.
I remember him sitting alone in the living room at 4 in the morning, hours before he won the Pitts - Lee Pulitzer.
Most recently, he had to be dragged to see the Herald’s new Gene Miller Conference Room. It was 8:30 … in the morning … on Memorial Day … No cameras allowed. He tried to back out the day before, saying “it just isn’t necessary.”
A friend who read the online obituary wrote: “he was a comedian.” That isn’t quite right. Rather he taught us all something more important. You can be a serious person without taking yourself too seriously. Life is supposed to be fun.
It looks like this went too long … does anyone know a good editor?
Gene was an unconquerable but friendly opponent for many years. I admired him from the floor above and later became a good friend. He might be classified as the Last Great Reporter.
Gene, just be sure to keep up the ghost editing.
I had the pleasure to meet gene this past year, thru my girlfriend who is best friend of his daughter janet. I consider myself very lucky to have met such a great and wonderful man. Just sitting there hearing him speak to me, i knew that i was sitting in front of an extraordinary man who i will never come across again in my lifetime. I wish the family my deepest condolences, and will always remember that gene always excerised at joe martin park while the rest of us always called it jose marti park. I will never forget him nor the name of that park again.
I am a reporter because of Gene Miller.
I still remember my first interview for a coveted Herald internship with
Gene and Pete Weitzel, at the Harvard Crimson, in the winter of 1985:
Weitzel glowered at me, posed the usual tough questions, seemed bored by
every word I said. All the while, Gene just sat there, chuckling to
himself as he silently read the first few grafs of my clips. The only
question Gene asked me was: “What’s the worst thing you have ever done?”
I mumbled something about my contemptible habit, in more than one of the
clips that he was holding in his hands, for embracing the most hackneyed
writing approach, and Gene chuckled his wonderfully infectious laugh
again. I left the interview room thinking: If Gene Miller has any say in
this, I’ve got the internship. I spent that summer working in the Broward
bureau. It was one of the best summers of my life.
Then, two years later, I was adrift during my first year of law school,
hating my life and missing journalism. On a whim, I sent another
application for a summer internship at the Herald. I met Gene again at
the Harvard Crimson—this time, he was the one doing the glowering. “We
don’t hire lawyers to be reporters,” he snapped. A verbal Miller chop,
delivered to the gut. That was all I needed to hear. I got a second
Herald internship, this one in Palm Beach, but only after I had assured
Gene that I really wanted to be a reporter. Luckily for me, the
internship extended into a full-time job. When I saw Gene again that
fall, he told me, “You’ve got ink in your blood,” and he was right about
I was edited many times by Miller, though “edited” is a rather polite and
awfully misleading term. When being Millerized, you always were given the
privilege to sit at his keyboard, but make no mistake—Gene was in the
driver’s seat. More often than not, Gene dictated while you typed, and it
didn’t matter because you learned one of Gene’s golden rules of writing
newspaper stories: Simplify. It is the word he yelled at me repeatedly
inside his office: “Simplify... simplify... SIMPLIFY!”
I wrote an investigative piece about a modern Seminole health clinic that
was a mess, a victim of mismanagement and budget cuts. The top of my
piece was larded with statistics and outrage, an impenetrable word
thicket. I drove down from Broward to be Millerized, and the first thing
Gene said when he saw me: “Where’s the medicine man? What did the
medicine man say? You’ve got to get the medicine man in the lede!”
FBI agents raided five judges’ homes, the first day that Operation Court
Broom became a Miami household term. There were two names for the FBI
operation: “Bench Press” and “Court Broom.” Gene chose the one that the
best ring to it. That day, the G-men carted out dozens of boxes and other
personal belongings from the judges’ chambers. I can still hear Gene
laughing about the phrase “lots of boxes” in the piece that we wrote.
Sure, it was his phrase.
Jeff Leen called Gene “the life force,” and it was true—it seemed as
if nothing could stop him or would stop him, ever. No one in the newsroom
became more excited about a great story than Gene. And his gargantuan
enthusiasm was not an act. It was the real thing—the thing he loved
most of all was a terrific story, preferably with a laugh track. When I
think back to my time in the Herald newsroom, I remember two things
vividly—the way Gene loped around the office, patting reporters on the
back and saying, “Go get ‘em, champion, go get ‘em, go get ‘em, go get
’em.” And his laugh—the big, booming laugh that made you smile just
hearing it. It was even better if the laugh was elicited by something you
had said or had written. Herald reporters learned very early on: If you
could write a story that tickled Gene, you would sail on to 1A. The front
page seemed attached to Gene Miller’s funny bone.
A few years ago, Gene sent a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Sox” to my oldest daughter, Isabel. On the inside cover,
Gene wrote: “Dear Isabel: Have Mommy and Daddy read this very fast. And
tell them to make no mistakes!” Make No Mistakes—another of Gene’s
I saw Gene last in the spring of 2003, at my book party after I had given
a reading at Books and Books in the Gables. He sipped his two-olive
martini, laughed his big laugh and told me secrets about London that I
never would have discovered during three lifetimes. I’m happy to say that
I managed to thank him for giving me not just one chance but two.
”Yeah,” he laughed, “and you still almost screwed it up.”
The death of Gene Miller last Friday is a loss we all share with his widow and family, and all of society. We can find inspiration and strength from Gene's life of dedication to truth and fairness in our justice system as we go about our day-day-responsibilities. Both personally and as members of our society, we have suffered a great loss.
A eulogy, June 22, 2005
I’m standing up here more than a little overwhelmed by the responsibility I feel in having been asked to say a few words.
Among you are some of the best journalists I have ever known – colleagues and former colleagues -- and I want to be able to represent in a small way your sentiments about Gene.
I’m also standing at the end of a long line of Miami Herald editors, many of them here: John McMullan, the man who hired Gene; Larry Jinks; Pete Weitzel; Doug Clifton; Rich Archbold; Mark Seibel. Gene humored all of us by letting us believe that we were in charge.
In truth, we were mere instruments to be used to drive The Herald where Gene believed it needed to go.
And I hope to speak for others from The Herald who are here, among them Jesus Diaz, soon to be publisher, and for Alberto Ibarguen, who is overseas, but who wrote back the other day to say that his wish for every newspaper publisher is that they find someone like Gene who can counsel them with needed candor when tough calls have to be made.
Sadly, there are few others like Gene.
So I stand up here trying to choose words that I hope would represent in some way what all of you – fellow journalists, editors, Herald colleagues -- might say.
And I confess to feeling some pressure.
But not nearly as much as I used to feel when, as a reporter with maybe 100-odd inches of raw copy, I’d sit down beside Gene, ready to be Millerized, knowing that I’d be fortunate if a third of my treasured 100 inches made it into print.
But my God, those surviving words would make me seem so brilliant, they’d give me such pride that I’d go out and buy extra copies of the paper that day to make sure I could mail a few to family and friends. Those were the clips that you saved, or that many of you here today sent on to the Post or the Times.
Gene’s reputation at The Herald – backed by his record – is simply Ruthian in its scope. You well know about the injustices he exposed, giving the gift of freedom to innocents who had lost it. You know that his bylines appeared over stories that charted the march of history through the latter half of the 20th century.
If it was a big story, it was Gene’s story, either to write it or to edit it. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Gene lived large and out loud. He had that booming voice and laugh.
He also thought big thoughts, which he attributed to John S. Knight. Knight once wrote, “We shall always persist in seeking the truth and printing it so that the cause of democracy may be advanced and the Republic will stand.”
That resonated with Gene. He repeated it often – especially the phrase about “seeking the truth and printing it” –to any editor who seemed shy about publishing one of those stories that would surely afflict the comfortable.
Of course Gene was relentless in pursuing the truth. His ability to ask the tough question is legendary. Every intern, for example, remembers being asked: “What’s the one thing you’re most ashamed of having done?” It’s too bad that none of those intimidated interns ever turned the question back on him.
Gene, sly dog, got away without ever ‘fessing up to his great shame. Then again, maybe he was never ashamed!
Gene often got away with asking the question that nobody else had the guts to do. He once invited John S. Knight to lunch long after Jack Knight had retired. Several drinks into the lunch – this was back in the day, of course, when reporters drank at lunch -- Gene bluntly asked Knight the worth of his fortune. Because Gene asked, Knight answered, revealing a staggering sum in the hundreds of millions.
To which Gene said, “In that case, you’re in position to spring for lunch.”
Knight replied, “I can, but I won’t.”
Of course my hunch is that while Jack Knight may not have paid for that lunch, neither did Gene. Somewhere there’s an expense account with that date for a lunch between Gene and “A news source who cannot be named…”
By the way, expense accounts were the only places where Gene wouldn’t identify his sources.
I consider myself especially fortunate in that I also knew Gene beyond his role as super journalist. To me, he was a Renaissance Man. He read voraciously, even carrying books in his car so he could devour a few paragraphs at a stop light. He seemed to know more about film than Roger Ebert and maybe Rene Rodriguez. He could discuss the theater, the symphony and the opera, as well as he could talk about The Marlins, The Heat, the Dolphins.
Some of his very best writing wasn’t in The Herald, it was in letters he wrote or edited. Of course Gene won two Pulitzer Prizes and edited others.
But he was involved in The Herald’s winning many more by drafting the all-important entry letters to Pulitzer judges. Gene believed – I think correctly – that this cover letter was as critical to success as the journalism itself.
Also, as Joe Oglesby mentioned, if you wanted to spend a year at one of the prestigious journalism fellowships, your application was virtually guaranteed to succeed if you sat down with Gene and wrote the application letter.
Gene, of course, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He said the greatest accomplishment he took away from that year was to learn to swim – as he put it, with all the grace and speed of a drifting log. He then did it almost every day, 1,000 yards.
I have barely scratched the surface but I know I’ve already gone past the point where Gene would have tapped on my keyboard and shouted -- BOR-RING…
This isn’t a plug, but I urge you to look at the guest book at Herald.com and read the many tributes sent in from around the country and the world.
And I wish I could share with you additionally the book that has been circulating in our newsroom the last several days, and the e-mails that I have received. Each one came with a story to relate, a memory to share.
They’re stories about how Gene gave everyone who was on a great story the same name – Champion. And he’d yell like a coach from the sidelines, “Go get ‘em, champion…. GO GET ‘EM…”
More than a few of my fellow journalists have declared this week that Gene is the reason they do what they do. They credit him with boosting their careers; with enhancing their appreciation for life; with encouraging them to swim at lunch; with trying that two-olive martini with a whiff of vermouth and Boodles gin.
When I started reading those e-mails, I was wallowing in the loss of a dear friend. But I’ve come away feeling very different. And this outpouring leaves me greatly encouraged.
Gene’s great gift went beyond what he gave to the newspaper and to its readers. It was the way he made everyone he touched – everyone who had the good fortune of being Millerized – feel that they had formed a permanent bond with him, one that made him or her a better journalist and perhaps a better person.
We’ll miss Gene terribly. Our condolences to Caroline, Tom, Janet, Robin, Terry and the grandchildren.
But I find some comfort in knowing that Gene lives on in the lessons he gave to each of us and that we continue to practice.
So we honor Gene as long as we continue to find the news and print it – and remember that the Republic depends on it.
I am Helen Wilbur, a longtime friend of Caroline, who would like you to have her message.
Caroline says: On behalf of myself, and Daniel, and Gene’s dear children and family, thank you for being here, for loving Gene, for your kind and overflowing outreach of support and sympathy to the family. I want especially to thank Marty Merzer, John Dorschner and the other Herald staff for creating such beautiful and stupendous coverage of Gene’s death, which was almost competitive with Gene’s death notice. Only Gene could, and would, scoop his own obituary.
We are all remarkable people. Each of us, sitting here, is as wonderful and unique as Gene Miller. But some people wear their specialness outright – on their sleeve, on their bowtie, blazing from the heart.
All the stories and anecdotes you have heard about Gene, and may hear later today at our home, even the ones that aren’t exactly true, are less amazing than the person himself. As you’ve heard, he was kind, he was loyal, he was irrepressible fun, he was, and is, irreplaceable. But all the stories and descriptions are, somehow, incomplete. I won’t say that words cannot describe him, for many beautiful, moving words have spoken clearly and truly of him, today and in recent days. But as even – indeed, especially – the many people here who live and work by words know, words cannot ever fully animate the person, or be the reality. If it were otherwise, then the doors of this church would blow open and Gene would dash up the aisle to give us his loud, jovial one-word take on these proceedings: “Malarkey!”
But that cannot be, for he is gone, and now we are relegated to words, to pictures, and to our memories. It is my privilege, and my burden, to have the best of those. But, ever generous, Gene left enough fine memories for all of us to honor and to enjoy. Of all us remarkable people, he was the most.
So I hope you got to see that comet rake the sky, and I hope you took a good, long look.
Miller and I had two things in common: We worked at the Herald, and we treasured letters from George Beebe, offering us low-salaried jobs in the late 1950s.
In all other aspects of journalism, I wasn't in his class -- most of us weren't.
Two raps on the desk and a hearty Ha! to you, old friend. Our business has lost one of the good ones.
I am glad you came into my life. You were a consumate teacher. Thanks.
I think Gene would like the idea that this occasion prompted a Herald reunion, electronically.
What a privilege it was to work -- and laugh -- in the Herald newsroom with Gene. I saw him last year for the first time since I left in 1998. It was at Dave and Anabelle Satterfield's wedding reception in Coral Gables. Gene waded through a crowd and approached me with that booming, "How ya doin', Champion?" Sure, I knew he did that with hundreds of people. But he made me feel like a million bucks. What a gift.
After signing on as a staff photographer in the late 1960's, I observed the likes of George Beebe, John McMullin, and James and John Knight padd about the halls of the TajMaHerald, and quickly realized how low I was on the food chain. Adapting to the rhythm of the Herald newsroom was a tough transition for a rag-tag kid from the cornfields of Iowa. Gene Miller helped make that transition a lot easier. It was apparent how much prestige Gene commanded in the newsroom, but he always treated me as his equal when together on assignment. He saw the guts of a story as pieces of a giant jig-saw puzzle to be discovered visually and through words, then weaved seamlessly together in an upcoming edition of the Herald. The only thing Gene demanded was that you share his intensity for a delevoping story.
I'd often seek out Gene to share the latest piece of cynicism circulating the photo department, knowing I'd receive a hearty laugh in return. Many a lunch hour was spent swimming in the lane next to him at Morningside Park pool. Often I would slip in after he'd begun and leave before he ended his long, slow, prodding crawl strokes - me a sprinter and he a long distance man. One day, 13 years later, I exited the pool and Miami for good, gathered my family and headed back to the cornfields of the Midwest. I left Gene still swimming, but took his friendship and keen sense of professionalism with me. Without realizing it, I guess I too had been Millerized.
There was no better teacher and no finer colleague. No matter you were a cub reporter, he never made you feel small. He'd treat you with the same warmth, humor and irreverence he dealt the top-ranking editors. I'm so lucky to have spent so many years in the same newsroom with him. I know you're up there smiling at all of us, Gene. Here's to you.
Gene and I went out on an interview together a few months ago. I was really jazzed about it. Working with Gene! An honor - and the most fun you could have in the newsroom.
Before we went to the interview, he handed me a file.
"Read the stories in there," he told me. "Read 'em twice, three times. Memorize the facts."
Gene Miller was telling me what to do. So of course I did it.
Then we went on the interview. He was himself - funny, smart and a little bawdy. We ended up hitting a wall in the interview, but discussed how to get around it as he drove us back to the Herald offices. We agreed to wait a while and try again.
He didn't come in the office much after that. The last time I saw him, he came up to my desk, tapped the file still sitting there and reminded me about the story.
"Keep after 'em," he told me. "Call every week. Invite 'em to coffee. Don't give up."
Then he leaned over the desk at me. "Persistence!"
Gene Miller was telling me what to do. And, of course, I'll do it.
Gene: You are everyone's hero. When working with you, you never touched the keyboard. The writer wrote. The coach coached. Always a colleague.
Rarely a day goes by that I don't ask myself "What would Gene do with this?'' Whether it's the editing of a story or a question of whether to publish something, Gene's voice rings loud in the head. And it always will. He loved to share his opinions, and they were always strong. And what a guy -- when I spoke to him a couple weeks ago, all he wanted to talk about was the impending arrival of our baby. (Gene edited my wife Anabelle, even while he was undergoing chemo.)
Reading the comments on this site, it's clear that Gene will continue to live, in so many people and so many ways. We love you, Gene-o.
I was telling a Miller story last week to a news junkie, only to sign on to Romanesko the next morning to hear about Gene.
A number of former Herald people were there with me (U.S. Open golf), and of course we shared Miller stories. One summed up Gene’s brilliant, concise style. A reporter was working on a story she knew Gene was going to edit, and she was grinding to make sure it was just right. Another writer walked by, and learning that Gene was the editor, gave her some advice:
“Toss in a bucket of periods. You know they’re going in there.”
What an inspiration Miller was, and is.
I had just arrived at The Herald in 1983 and didn’t really know anybody. I was walking down the long hallway, and up came a guy who exuded energy. Big smile, a slap on the shoulder and a “How ya doin’? ”
I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that at the time, and what a smile it brings to this day.
Reading through so many thoughtful anecdotes underlines what a stunning collection of people passed through The Herald, and how much we all owe him. I got back to our office yesterday, the day 20 interns showed up for the summer. I’m working on pulling off a reasonable imitation of “Good copy, champion!”
Gene, I will miss your smile, laugh and half funny jokes. Things will never be the same in this town. I thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your life. Now who's going to come into the Medical Examiner Office and bug me now?
I tried to capture some of the feelings of Gene's many disciples at The Washington Post with a piece for that ran Saturday. Apparently copyright rules don't allow me to post it here, but I'll be happy to send it to anyone who asks.
As Gene taught us, though, everything can be tighter, so I can boil it down to just three words: I loved him.
I wasn't a reporter or an editor. I was just a college cartoonist. But when Gene Miller and Pete Weitzel interviewed me during one of their famous recruiting road trips in the early 80s, they made me feel like part of their team. Gene's belief in a person’s potential was contagious.
No wonder you can't spell generous without Gene. He and Pete generously created a position for me in the Herald's art department, and allowed me to be the first intern who wasn't a writer or photographer.
Gene was always an inspiration to those who hunched over typewriters and keyboards, but he also inspired me as I hunched over my drafting table. His writing style encouraged me to try to apply the verbal brevity and punch of a Miller lede to a visual image. A few words by Gene Miller are worth a thousand pictures.
Even today, whenever I draw a newspaper man, I give him a lean physique, a lively step, swept-back hair, eyeglasses that twinkle...and a bow tie.
I had the great pleasure to work with Gene - in one capacity or another - for almost 30 years, eight of them as one of those editors he loved to torment in that inimitable Miller style. Not to have reported along side Gene or to have been his (so called) boss, is to have missed out on the best journalistic education in newspapers.
Newspaper writers will miss him, but so will newspaper readers.
not only has the death of gene miller made me cry, but seeing the list of herald editors/reporters signing his guest book has also brought memories with the tears.
our family arrived in miami in 1951 when i was three, so we had the pleasure of being millerized from a reader's perspective for nearly all the years he was a herald reporter. we got the herald in the morning and the news in afternoon. but no one wrote a story like gene miller, we soon learned. the stories he covered read like bullet points from my child/adulthood - yarmouth castle, murph the surf, candace mossler, mackle, bluebelle, pitts and lee, and any hurricane in between.
in the early 70s, with a journalism career of my own in mind (and the high school j-classes and AA degree from MDJC to shore me up!), i (long story short here) talked my way into a six week stint as the TV listings clerk (the reporter who handled it took extended leave). ahhh - the miami herald! the entertainment department! my dream!
and that is when i met gene miller, by then a star, but not yet a pulitzer winner. i never had gene's input as to writing or reporting - not even when i later returned in 1978 as a Lively Arts intern - but like others, i certainly could have used it - then, and now.
i knew gene more casually as part of the herald cafeteria lunch time algonquin round table - or rather, oblong tables bunched together in varying numbers depending on who was lunching that day.
one never knew who ron york or jack anderson would gather up to head down to the cafeteria every day around 11:45. i can still see tall ron standing up, looking down to the far end of the newsroom to see who might want to go to lunch. helene would walk over from the wire room, if huddy was around he'd join us, candy, too. bob swift was always there, jean wardlow, sometimes charlie whited, and from time to time, gene would sit in. byline stars to me. i was in awe. the stories i heard, the gales of laughter, the ribbing, the inside gossip - it was all there in the cafeteria.
much later, one of the funniest images i have of gene was when i had returned home to miami from the University of Florida in the late 70s. i had been invited to a party given by a reporter who lived in a condo near the herald building. as i drove up and down the poorly lighted two-laned bayside street searching for the high rise, i stopped my car, turned on my inside light, and read the directions.
by absurd coincidence, a fellow j-school friend from UF walked out of a nearby house, recognized my car, and as we both laughed about seeing each other, another man walked by, edged my friend away from the passenger side window, and stuck his bespectacled head inside. it was gene miller! he was curious; he wanted to know what was going on! god knows he didn't have a clue that i had worked/interned at the herald, had many a lunch with the crowd in the cafeteria, or that i might be heading to a reporter's party. for him, i might have been someone who needed his help. and actually i did - with directions to the party. the high rise, it turned out, was a few blocks away. gene had already been there and was on his way home.
i can still see gene nosing his head inside the window - just like good reporters and decent human beings should do, curious as to what was happening there on that dark street and ready to help if anyone needed him or at the very least, there might be a story to be had.
as someone who idolized his work, i am so saddened by his passing. he did good things. his words mattered. he was, to me, the miami herald.
here's to you, gene. that's a 30. say hello to cosford for me.
"Millerizing" was not confined to the Herald newsroom. Gene's efforts on Pitts and Lee, then later the Yarmouth Castle, showed me how skilled news writing could not only move readers, but 'write wrongs.' His brand of this craft is still a model for me.
Look at the names in this guest book! Pete Weitzel said it: Gene Miller was the soul of The Herald. He gave me a hard time when I left for Newsweek in the mid-'70s because everybody knows that newsmagazines don't do any real reporting. He's right, they don't, at least not by his standards--but who does? My condolences to all of us.
Caroline and Daniel, I am truly sorry about your loss. Caroline, you seemed very happy and proud to be Gene's partner as did he of you. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to meet him. Hoping you feel the comfort of others to help you through this difficult time.
Gene Miller was the heart and soul of a great Miami Herald in its golden years. His personality and professionalism were a major part of the talent-laden Herald's content virtually ever day. Once after midnight we were having our customary poker game when Gene got a call from the city desk. Gotta go, he said, a cruiseliner is burning off the Bahamas. He and a photographer grabbed a private plane and circled the burning boat. I can remember his clear, jolting story some 40 years later. The pictures and survivor interviews were incredible. Never met a better reporter/writer in 50 years. And he was an even better man.
It's profoundly touching to read this outpouring of affection and appreciation for Gene. To make such a lasting mark on so many people and to instill such loyalty over so many years -- that is the mark of a great man. Gene might quibble with that adjective. What does great mean?; be specific. But in this case, I'll opt for the general, the tip of the hat. I'm still recovering from the martinis he made at the gracious dinners he threw in the 1980's so I'll raise a glass of something milder. To Gene, who inspired a lifetime of taut sentences, taught us to refine our prose and inspired us with his gusto. We'll miss you and keep ou in our hearts.
I could hardly believe Jerry's email that Gene had died. We all knew it was coming, but still . . . .
What stirred me is the same thing that stirred all the other contributors to this book:
His humor, his tenaciousness, his fairness (although he howled mightily on the first story of his I ever edited; "Godammit, you can't just keep putting in 'police said" without ruining the flow!")
H was a great reporter and a great friend.
Regrettably, I can't attend his service Wednesday because I have to pick up my niece at SFO with her newly adopted Chinese daughter.
Yes, yes -- two olives, Gene.
As an editor at The Herald for 33 years, I was Millerized, too. It was a far different experience than the treatment he gave reporters. But, I learned from him, as we all did. Over the years we became friends and Gene became a valued counselor. I can’t remember the number of times that I got myself into a jam and Gene would offer to help. At other times he would just drop by my office or I would stop by his and we’d talk about newspapers and news people. It was fun. I miss that.
When I began writing weekend obits at The Herald in 1968 one of my early surprises was that Gene was always looking for stories among the day’s dead. “Never know what turns up in the obits,” he told me. “This can be the most important job in the newsroom on any given day.” From then on I treated my obit writing job with a passion, and it led to a full-time job with The Herald that with several interruptions ended in 2000. The fact that any newsroom job can be the best on any given day was the first of many great lessons he would give me. And as I moved on in the news business I would always treat that day’s assignment or story as the most important in the newsroom. Many of his lessons – and they were always unforgettable -- were given with a smile. Some were not. Like the day I missed a critical angle during the coverage of the Watergate Miami angle. I never missed that one gain. But even in anger he was never mean or unkind. He had a genuine love for people that was contagious. Even before he was officially an editor he had the propensity to turn up and look at the day’s big story and make sure that it was worthy of the Herald. One was when I covered my own father’s arrival from Cuba in 1973. It was a first person story that was awfully difficult to write because of the intense emotional state in which I was. I had not seen my father in 13 years. Gene snapped me out of my self consciousness close to deadline. After looking at the story he told me, “The story looks great.” Then pointing at the picture going with the story added, “But your old man looks better fit than you do.”
Having spent the 70s and most of the 80s – truly a golden age -- in The Herald newsroom was such great privilege… and reading Gene’s guest book and the entries of so many people who shared that time with him I can’t help but think that even in death he is giving those of us who were part of the era and of his life the gift of gathering on the web in his memory and reliving that wonderful time and his role in our lives – not coincidentally many of the writers were at Rich Archbold’s bachelor party in Key Biscayne back then. Thanks Gene. My father is up there too. Just as fit, I’m sure.
My condolences to journalism. What a joy he was.
I was an editor in the Herald's newsroom in the 1970s and early 80s, and well remember that, no matter which of the various desks I was inhabiting at the time (State, City, National), Gene Miller was a presence felt by us all. His passion for reporting and good writing touched everyone around, as has been noted by many others on this guest book.
Even for those of us whose primary concerns during the news day centered around headline writing, art cropping, and making the copy fit the news hole, Gene's influence could be felt. In the days of hot type, we had to make numerous story trims in the composing room by reading the (backwards) type and getting the printers to saw lines, etc. It was very easy to just say, "trim from the bottom," but if the story was one of Gene's or one he was involved in, we knew that we better look at the whole story and make the best cut possible based on content, not on our convenience or that of the composing room.
Having someone with Gene's passion for journalism and his reputation in the newsroom energized us all, and made the Herald a much more exciting and rewarding place to work.
Gene, your example lives on and you've made hundreds of people into better reporters and writers.
Gene and Electra were our best friends in Miami. My late husband, John Connors, worked with Gene at the Richmond News-Leader. Gene told John that the Herald was a great place to work, so we arrived in Miami in 1959. Electra and I shared maternity clothes, and our families shared Christmas and Thanksgivings. I will always remember Gene rushing outside on Christmas Day to greet us when we arrived, competing with our daughter Nancy to be the first to yell, "Bah humbug!"
The Herald reporters always knew how to have a good time, on the job and off. The parties were legendary; in those days, your party was considered a failure if no one ended up skinny dipping in the pool, or anyone left before the sun came up. Gene loved to flirt, almost as much as he loved martinis. I miss those days. You were a good friend, Gene.
Gene Miller and Pete Weitzel hired me as a Miami Herald intern in 1983. I started the job 22 years ago today.
I worked in Palm Beach County at first. After a while I got my hands on a pretty good story and mangled it. My editors sent me to Miami to work with Gene. He read my story aloud. Soon he came to a paragraph so tangled with minutiae that he stopped in mid-sentence and turned to me.
"Simplify, simplify, SIMPLIFY," he said. Three times, just like that. So I did. Made the story three times better. I still hear his voice when I sit down to write or edit. He was just a great journalist.
He also happened to be a great guy.
My condolences to the family and those who were touched by Mr. Miller's life.
Like so many Herald alums, a lot of what I know today about reporting and writing came directly from Gene, or indirectly from others who were influenced by him. I never went to journalism school, but a couple hours of being edited by Gene was better than a semester in a classroom.
My first lesson with Gene, more than 25 years ago, was one of the most memorable. I had spent months as a general assignment reporter in the Palm Beach County bureau, hoping to be noticed. One day a Miami editor called asking that someone go knock on the door of a retiree couple who happened to be the parents of Michael Townley, a young American expatriate who was suspected of being an assassin for the Chilean secret police. I was picked, and had some luck in getting the parents to talk about their son. What they told me led to others who knew Townley when he had lived in Miami. Over the next couple of days, I passed along the outline of what I had learned, and so was told to come down the next day to the “Biscayne Bureau” to keep gathering information. Hot damn!
But a few hours after I arrived, the wires reported that Townley was being indicted. I was told that I had a couple of hours to write up what I had discovered for tomorrow’s front page. Gulp. Bill Montalbano, then the Herald’s chief foreign correspondent, sat down with me to help. He must have seen the panic in my eyes – or the prosaic top to my story -- because he immediately called out across the newsroom, “Miller, we need you.”
For the next two hours, I was “Millerized” on deadline. I sat at the editing screen with Bill on one side and Gene on the other. Together, they wrung me dry, squeezing out of me and into the story every obscure detail I had found, down to the color and name of the Chilean wine that Townley favored. I was imprinted with the Miller writing style so strongly that day that for years afterward I had to consciously avoid it, knowing my efforts would pale compared to the real thing.
Another Miller memory that makes me smile was the near-pathological neatness of his office. Each day before he left he would put everything on his desk into a drawer – including his telephone. Someone once gave him a desktop placard that proclaimed something to the effect of “A clean desk is a sign of a disordered mind.” It was displayed on his desk for years – and placed in the drawer each night.
I never picked up the clean desk habit, but I succeeded as a reporter -- and now as a journalism professor -- thanks in large part to learning from his example.
I read and admired Gene's work for many years. He was everything a great journalist should be: independent, courageous, irreverant and -- most of all -- human.
We won't see the likes of Gene Miller again anytime soon.
Before the "new" building, there was the old Herald building -- and Gene. In the very early '60s, Gene and Electra befriended me-- a young copy editor who knew scarcely anyone in Miami. Gene was the best-- as a reporter and as a friend. I have a special memory of a visit to Miami several years ago when he swept me into Joe's Stone Crabs for lunch--no waiting line when you were with him! I celebrated with him for the first Pulitzer--and admired him from afar for all the rest of his many accomplishments.
Gene leaves a wonderful legacy, and he will be greatly missed.
Gene was a full-fledged star when I got to the Herald in 1976, but he never acted the part. In those early days, I thought he was awfully kind to the newest person in the newsroom -- particuarly one who had that decidedly bewildered look about him -- or he was just kind to everybody. It didn't take long to find that Gene drew no boundaries for sharing his knowledge or his friendship. When Lynn and I moved from Miami to Philadelphia, Gene bought our car to give to one of his children. It didn't take long before some mishap or another befell this fine Datsun, and Gene was typically good-humored about that as well. We all learned from Gene, journalistically as well as otherwise.
What a terrible loss to the world of journalism is the death of the great Gene Miller. I had the immense pleasure of working with Gene on two books, 83 HOURS 'TIL DAWN and INVITATION TO A LYNCHING, the latter dealing with two wrongly convicted death row inmates, Freddie Lee Pitts and Wilber Lee. Gene was dogged in his efforts to see these men freed, and when his series of articles failed to do the trick, he wrote the book. When it was in galleys, we sent a copy to Governor Lawton Chiles for a pre-publication endorsement, and to our joy and astonishment, he actually read the galleys and immediately pardoned Pitts and Lee. The only reason there wasn't more publicity at the time was that their release occurred the same day as fugitive Patty Hearst was caught. Gene always referred to that day as one of his proudest -- this from a man with two Pulitzers. Clearly he had a lot of proud days to choose from. My deepest sympathy to his family. Gene will be greatly missed by his friends, and a profession that needs a lot more like him.
It was Gene’s work – from his reporting days -- that made me gravitate to the type of stories and column items I love to cover.
Gene edited me for more than a decade – longer than he edited anyone. He taught me detail, timing, rhythm – and how to trim, trim, trim… And in the process, we had a blast. The juicier the item, the more delight he took. “Won-der-ful!’’ he’d bellow. And our work would begin… His death leaves a personal void.
Having Gene as a friend for the past 40 years (actually closer to 50, an inaccuracy he would not let me forget)has been a special gift. Till we meet again, Gene-O!
I met Gene by serendipity. I was standing in a line outside Mo's chowder joint in Newport, Ore., among dozens waiting to get in for lunch. The guy ahead of me was wearing a Miami Herald T-shirt, so I decided to make some small talk with what might be a fellow journalist.
Good impulse. Once I invoked the names of Lisa Getter, Manny Garcia and Judy Miller, I was in. Gene and his family joined me and mine for lunch, and we struck up a friendship that was dear to me over the past decade. He was an honorary Northwesterner, and I took joy each December in rolling up a Seattle Times wall calendar for him to use in his office.
Even from 3,000 miles away, Gene inspired me to be my best self as a journalist. I will miss him, as will hundreds of his friends and fans across the country.
All best to Caroline, the family and those closest to Gene.
Dear Gene, you did it again. The obit. The great line about ''excellent health...except for a fatal disease.'' And right down to the penny, your buyout from Knight Ridder. It made me remember your expense accounts, which were a work of art. Once, when I sent you and photographer Joe Elbert out on a hurricane-chasing trip, and you chased it all the way across the U.S. into Mexico's Baja for the sum damage of 2 dead chickens, you said: ''Meriwether, you're going to pay for this.'' And did I ever.
I always laughed, too, at your familiar question to anyone who got a promotion: Are you making more money? If you're not, you'd say, go back and ask for some or it's not a promotion.
Lots of reporters have written about being "Millerized'' but editors got the same treatment, and then some. You'd read behind one of my ''well-edited'' stories and come up with questions I'd never dreamed of asking the reporter. And yeah, it made it better, Gene.
What everyone remembers, of course, and will for the rest of our days,is how you challenged us to remember why we got into this business in the first place:
It's about NEWS; it's about righting wrongs; it's about storytelling. And you'd say, in that wonderful Miller way, it's the most fun you can possibly have with your clothes on.
We will miss you forever for what you've meant to us all. Good bye, Gene.
P.S. My deepest condolences to the wonderful Miller ''kids.'' His love for you knew no bounds.
My memories of Gene are less journalistic than others. I remember that, along with several others, Gene was asked to speak at Herald Executive Editor Janet Chusmir's funeral in December of 1990. Janet died quite suddenly a few days before Christmas. Janet and Gene had been close friends for decades. He was so concerned about losing his composure during the service that he grabbed everyone and anyone he could find in the Herald newsroom to listen to his remarks. His goal was to repeat himself so many times that the remarks would lose their meaning and he'd be able to get through it. We could hear his voice reverberating throughout the newsroom time and time again, repeating his eulogy. He succeeded beautifully, of course. He was a journalist's journalist, but he was also a great and loyal friend to many. His death leaves a great void.
My condolences to his family.
As a features writer for the late, lamented Miami News (which occupied a portion of the Herald building until the News' demise two decades ago), I would, on occasion, encounter Gene in the corridor that led to the staff cafeteria. Always wearing his signature bowtie. Always offering a grin and a greeting. Always modestly accepting praise for his latest wonderfully written story. And always kind enough to offer praise for something I'd written -- a thrill for me. Always
Gene helped recruit me to the Herald in 1980. He found a house for me to rent. He swam in its pool daily, until my lack of proper pool maintenance turned it pea green. He asked me to a football game that fall and dinner at his home afterward with his wife, Electra. He forgot to mention his other guest, a reporter with a smart mouth, cute eyes and pants that were an unfortunate shade of maroon. I liked Electra better than the reporter. The reporter liked Electra better than me. The reporter, Geoffrey Tomb, and I were married about 18 months later. Gene approved.
Gene and I recruited Herald interns together each year for several years, hopping planes, staying at "B" hotels, looking for the next Herald star. He had a better eye than I. We both had fun.
I left the newsroom to work for Larry Jinks, then senior vice president/news at corporate. Gene approved. Larry was one of the good guys. I went to Philadelphia to run HR for the Inquirer and Daily News. Gene had advised against it. He remained a friend even when I went to corporate as an officer. Gene didn't judge. He teased. He tweaked. Mostly, he was a friend. Pulitzers are his public legacy. Decency, tolerance, humor and friendship were his gifts to a furtunate few. Thank you, Gene.
Condolences to wife Caroline, and children Daniel, Tom, Terry, Robin and Janet. You were all so precious to him.
Gene: You taught us that god (and the devil) were in the details. You taught us the essentials and dared us, by example, to reach higher. You taught us not to take it all that seriously, but dammit get it right. You taught us that interesting stories in capable hands could be made more interesting, but also that an interesting story in Miller's hands could be sublime. You raised "good copy!" in a comment or note to a superlative of highest praise. Godspeed, teacher and friend.
I did not know Gene but after reading the Herald articles I feel that I did. What struck me after reading about him was that Gene was to the Herald what you are to the USAO. My sincere condolences to you and your family.
I am deeply sorry to hear of the death of Gene Miller. He was truly a talented man. Don Herzer
The Bosse High School Class of 1946 had about 500 in it. Gene Miller was in that Class.
We had some very smart boys in that Class: Gene Miller, Bob Winters, Bob Vaupel, Carl Sutton (those three were particularly close .. and all three died within 12 months of each other, perhaps the "In 3's theory" works), Bill Butterfield, John Newman, Mickey Boeke, to name a few; all fine people.
In our "50th Class Reunion" publication, under Gene's picture was his name, and his nickname: "Goodrich." Where he got that I do not know, but somebody remembered(probably Jack Headlee). Looking at Gene's picture from 1946, he really did not change that much, has about the same amount of hair, a bit grayer, but parted the same. He now is wearing glasses, but he still has that very nice smile.
Gene was always VERY STRONG PRINCIPLED in High School, which was a quality that apparently he kept throughout his entire career.
Gene will be missed by ALL of us who knew him.
Our Lord received a Fine Angel to add to his Angel staff. And, as his time was spent on earth, he will be for eternity.
Our remembrances and sympathies go to Mrs. Miller and his Family.
Most sincerely ... Ed Small
When I joined the Herald as Brevard Bureau Chief in 1969, I learned a lot about Gene Miller without ever meeting him. Some members of the Brevard Sheriff's Department hated Gene with a passion for his efforts on behalf of Pitts and Lee. There was some sort of hearing in cirucit court bearing on the case, and Gene came up to cover it. He was affable as I found out he always was that way, but the cops stayed away from him like he was poison.
Another memory I have of him is after I was brought to cityside. I was doing a story about U.S. Marshals seizing a yacht in Port Laundania. The owners had a cocktail party going on the fantail as shotgun bearing marshals seized the vessel. I couldn't get the lead right, and asked Gene for advice. He gave it and I showed him what I wrote as a result. He liked it and I took it to city desk. The assistant editor read it, threw it back at me and said it was terrible. "Gene liked it," I said. "Give it back to me," said the AE and the lead ran just as Gene had approved.
He was a unique journalist, and I am proud to say I knew him. We are all poorer for his departure, but I'll bet St. Peter has been given one heck of an interview.
May you all find peace in the knowledge that we all share your grief.
Our paths would cross only occasionally, but it was exciting merely to be in the same newsroom with Gene Miller _ and so many other big talents _ when I got a part-time job at The Herald in the mid-1970s.
If I were teaching journalism today, the required reading would include Gene Miller's obituary and the entries in this guest book.
If those words didn't inspire a potential journalist, what would?
I am one of the government investigators who investigated the Freddie Lee Pitts murder case. I was called back from various places around the world to meet with Gene and his investigator for depositions and to testify. He was very honest and true to his profession. We had a great time together in Florida. I remember when his tire was cut outside the court building in Florida.Gene said to me, "I will take more than a cut tire".When I spoke with Gene a couple of months ago while in Miami. I always started the conversation with a deep voice and said" You know they were both guilty". He would then give out his trademark laugh and say Bruce how have you been. I knew that he was ill, but,he did not say a word about it to me. He spoke very highly of his wife and family.. God Bless....firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Janet and family,
I'm awed by all the people who knew and admired your dad. He was truely an awe inspiring man. I wish I had known him better but what I do remember from my high school years with his daughter Janet are many. I remember his kindness and generosity, his great booming voice his always telling jokes to his childrens friends that we thought were so corny. But I remember him most as being a loving but ordinary man, husband and father. I know he will be missed by all who knew and loved him. Goodbye Gene
Karen and Rick Sardo
I met "Dad" Miller when Janet and I became best friends in middle school. I can honestly say I've never met another dad who enjoyed joking with his kids as much as he and who treated the extra kids who would hang around the house as if they were part of the family too.
He always had a way of livening up the ordinary, such as ordering take out pizza under assumed names, like Debussy...and there we would go off to pick up the pizza having to remember the new name he invented for that order.
I'm particulary grateful for Gene's Martini Indoctrination of us, when Jan & I turned 16 (a day apart) . Gene insisted we try a martini, and in some devious reverse psychology, he probably knew this was the perfect way to keep us away from liquor for at least a few more years!
I'll always remember how proud I was, even as a family friend, when he won his first Pulitzer and when his first book was published.
How sad that his passing comes so close to Father's Day, yet so significant. I'll always love him as my extra dad who never hesitated to include me in the family fun. I'll miss you "Dad."
Gene Miller holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of those of us fortunate enough to pass through the Miami Herald newsroom while he shaped its soul.
Others have written about how he taught them the rhythm of great newswriting, or the art of gathering detail that puts the reader at the scene. I learned other things from Miller.
As a desk-hopping young reporter – there was a desk shortage in the old office on South Miami Avenue and after two years I had not yet earned an assigned place to park – I’d angle to find a temporary typewriter within earshot of Miller whenever possible. That way I could listen and hopefully absorb as he cold-called and convinced the subject of what was not going to be a flattering story, someone he’d never met, that he was a best friend and there was no risk – none -- in also making him a confidant.
As you can see from that last paragraph, Miller was never my writing coach. Not that I didn’t pick up some writing lessons. Just watching. Miller didn’t just write ledes, he sweated them. If it were ever easy, you couldn’t tell from a few desks away. And in the days of copy-paper books and manual typewriters, considerably more dramatic. He’d stare at the blank sheet with incredible concentration, then spring at the keys for a few moments, sit back, lips moving soundlessly, reading that first graph. Then he’d grab the paper, yank it clear, and descend on a favored colleague. “Whadaya think.”
It was a demand, not a question. It didn’t matter that it was better than anything you’d ever written. He expected a critique. “Good, Gene!” wasn’t good enough. The walking-the-lede routine sometimes extended to four, five, six rewrites and trips about the room until Miller got it, in his own demanding way, right.
I never learned to yank copy paper with the same flare, and never mastered the Miller lede, let alone the chop, but I did decide that if he had to work that hard at it, maybe my own struggles and endless rewrites were understandable, and that there was some hope.
Miller’s skill at asking the tough question was a joy to watch as well. Witness one day in the early 60s when John S. Knight came through the newsroom. Knight Newspapers was at the time private. Many newspaper companies were going public. Miller popped up in his path, broad smile and handshake, and in a voice everyone within 100 desks could hear, asked, “Mr. Knight. A lot of people in the newsroom are wondering. When are you going to go public?”
Knight replied. “Not until the Internal Revenue Service leaves me no choice, Gene.” Miller followed up and Knight explained why he didn’t think going public was in the best interest of his newspapers. “Right now, if we’re having a bad year, I can decide to earn a million dollars less. It’s my money. If this is a public company, I can’t make that choice.” Several of us thought that a pretty hypothetical answer and told him we’d really like to be shareholders. What did we know!
Many years later, Miller and I went on roadtrips together, traveling for a couple of weeks each year to campuses across the country in search of summer interns. Miller felt, intensely, that the quality of The Herald’s “fresh blood” was critical to its future, and that someone – Miller – needed to be on hand to challenge my thinking. The Herald didn’t just need super bright people who could become great reporters and writers, he told me. It needed people who would challenge it, push it, force it to be more than it was.
He surely asked questions I never thought to ask, and some I thought about but wasn’t sure how to pull off. And he got away with it. Like the time we were in Boston in the late 1970s and interviewed a student from Tufts named Mike Wilson. Mike had fine clips and it was clear from my early questioning that he was a very thoughtful young man. But there was something I wasn’t asking and after about 10 minutes of Interview 101, Miller busted in. “What Weitzel really wants to know,” he said gesturing toward the silver ring in Wilson’s right ear, “is where you got that?” Miller got an answer we both liked. Wilson got the internship. And I got another interviewing lesson from Miller.
Once, recruiting at the University of Missouri, he talked our way into a university indoor pool and challenged me to swim a mile. We plunged in. I finished well ahead of him, and rather unkindly told him I’d been waiting quite a while when he finished. “Did you swim the whole way?” he asked. “Of course,” I smirked. “Too bad you didn’t have these,” he replied with his own smirk, holding up his goggles. He was right. I literally cried through the entire dinner that evening with Larry Jinks, a former Herald executive editor who was also visiting the campus that day.
Gene was a wonderful traveling companion and an even greater friend over my 38 years at The Herald – and beyond. Every couple of months, there’d be a phone call, “Weitzel, how the hell are you!” and before I had a chance say anything he’d be off on the tale of some current adventure or misadventure he knew I’d want to know about.
So long, old friend, it’s been a great swim. And don’t mind if I cry a little.
Tom, Terry, Robin, Janet:
It’s a very sad day for all who knew your father. I see all these people who mention his journalist achievements, but it’s the quality of the person that we will all miss. I send my condolences to all of you in this very difficult time. Larry
When I married Senator Jack Gordon and moved to Miami in 1987 the first friend I made was Gene Miller. I had already worked at the Washington Post for a number of years and, although I knew many of the best in the business, Miller was an overwhelming joy, talent, wit and stellar luncheon pal. I was in awe of his work(and found out we shared the same book editor.) When I asked if he had a copy of his marvelous book on Pitts/Lee, Gene laughed his booming "Ha!", raised his eyebrows and acted as if it was some insignificant trifle he had dashed off in a light moment. So much for the Pulitzer Prize. No one in the business had more reason to take himself seriously, but part of Gene's everlasting brilliance and charm is that he never did. I loved him and miss him terribly.
My first memory of Gene Miller was in 1960 when I won a tough election to the Dade County School Board. A few days later a letter arrived saying " I see you are a Negro lover, a communist, and you oppose prayer in the schools, so you can't be all bad" Typical Miller humor which I enjoyed for the forty odd years I knew him. But when I was a State Senator and tried to get compensation for Pitts and Lee for the time they were wrongfully imprisoned, I learned that Gene had turned over the pre-publication proofs of his Pitts Lee book to Governor Askew who then pardoned them. This killed the book sales. And I developed even more respect for a person who would sacrifice his own profit in order to see that justice was done. I'm proud to have been his friend
When I was on my way to a Boston Globe internship in ’82, you lured me to Miami by promising there wasn’t a better news town. True. In the days before email, I was one of many Herald “insecure overachievers” who treasured those one-sentence Miller notes of praise.
When I flew west to write about a guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh taking over Antelope, Oregon, you needed to know how many Rolls-Royces he owned and what he’d named his pet emu. After I left the Herald for other papers, I’d be stuck in some hellhole and open my mail package to find an encouraging one-line letter from you.
Gene, over the years I kept starting to write a thank you letter. I never finished because I thought you’d find it too damn fluffy. The deadline has passed, so here goes:
Thank you for punching up my ledes. Thank you for getting rid of those dry quotes, those passive grafs, those phony SAT adjectives. Thanks for making journalists believe that newspapers are so much more than corporate profit centers, that articles aren't merely filler between the lingerie ads, and that insecure overachievers can make a difference.
We just heard about Gene from Daniel. We remember fondly the couple of dinners we spent with you and the kids in Maine. Like so many others we fell under Gene's spell. Generous, funny, and self effacing; he was a great combination. Caroline, we are thinking about you at this difficult time.
Michele, Jon and Ffej
Gene and I arrived at The Herald in November, 1957, as did new reporter Bob Swift. We were the three newcomers on the block. We all had previous newspaper and wire service experience but The Herald was a great new challenge. We became fast friends and, along with members of our families we socialized frequently over a period of many years. He attended the funeral of my first wife, Jean, in 2002. Jean and I had been close friends of Jean and Electra. My second wife, Sylvia, and I had dinner with Gene and Caroline a few months ago and they came to a reception Sylvia and I hosted last November, marking our marriage. Gene was one of a kind, a wonderful friend and a great newspaperman.
Gene: You sly fox, you slipped out the side door before we had a chance to get all sappy and gushy. "BORE-ring!" you would have said. Oh, no. I remember how you pounded the pretense out of my prose in the big stories we had together in the late '70s: Dangerous Doctors, McDuffie, 3 Mile Island. That was enough for my lifetime but was just a sliver of your amazing career. What a ride! "Ha!" as you would say, just before checking out for a swim. I expect you're paddling some very mellow laps in your new venue and plotting your next adventure. Regards, my friend.
My friend, my mentor, my hero and inspiration.
One of a kind.
Never another like him.
Having worked with Gene on many many stories, I was always so happy that he respected photographers.
He was one of a kind, more observant than a photographer and always fun to be and work with.
We both were proud of the fact that we were in minority who wore our bow ties with no clip-ons or elastics, and knew how to tie them without a mirror.
Sue & Ray
What a fine, joyous man. Gene and I were journalism classmates at Indiana University. I guess the laughs and the respect began back then. Years later when I was working on the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, I drove down to Miami to visit Gene. What a great time. He told me about a party he hosted. He staggered the invitations a half-hour apart. Those invited on the hour were to come in formal attire. Those on the half-hour were to come for a pajama party. You can imagine the effect when somebody in a tux rang the doorbell and Gene appeared in pajamas. Or vice versa. Meanwhile, the guests who already had arrived were off to the side laughing their heads off. To add a little sex to it, Gene had one of the woman guests in pajamas appear just for an instant in the background when the visitor in the tux and his wife were at the door. You could imagine what they thought. Over the years, I followed Gene's career and was proud of his many accomplishments. I wound up working for The Washington (D.C.) Star covering sports and the Redskins. A group of us ex-journalism grads from Indiana University would have a mini-reunion every year. The gatherings always were much better when Gene could attend. Last year we decided to meet at IU and Gene and Caroline were there. That's the last time I saw him. Oddly, the little reunion is going on now in Evanston, IL. Neither Gene, with good reason, nor I could make this one. How sad it is. I know the stories about Gene are spinning from Russ, Audrey, Joe, Carl, Jean and a few others. As Gene wished, I'm sure there will be a martini or two hoisted in his honor...with Boodles gin. And Gene, we'll miss you...always.
Another legend is gone. I never worked with Gene but I don't think there were many serious reporters in the "olden days" who didn't know who he was and wish they were half as good.
When I knew Gene Miller, my name was Faith High -- my husband was then-Mayor of Miami, Robert King High. As a journalist, Gene was the best. I remember him as a gentleman in every sense of the word -- and one with a great sense of humor. Gene covered Bob High's funeral, and also my later marriage to Ken Barnebey -- getting into the church when no other reporter managed it! But that was Gene -- and what a privilege to have known him. To his wife and family, my prayers for God's comfort and strength. Faith (High) Barnebey
Many years ago my late husband wrote for the Herald. While he "didn't like hardly nobody" he had great admiration for Gene Miller, both as a friend and a fellow newsman. And when my husband died, Gene extended a warm and friendly hand to me and my family. I too hope they meet again in that great newsroom in the sky. Jan Morton
As a fresh-out-of-college reporter in The Herald’s backwater Naples bureau in 1974, I kept bumping into people who said they knew Miller – he was a good friend. I soon discovered Gene’s friends were legion, and all had legendary Miller stories. The guy knew everyone. Been everywhere. So when he Millerized a couple of my stories and promoted them to Page 1, I could only join in the chorus. Years later, during a brief sojourn as The Herald’s chief clip-keeper, I came across Gene’s classically irreverent 1966 Newspaper Reporter job description:
Q. In this space, give a brief and general statement which best describes your job.
A. Well, generally, I play Clark Kent in my job, a mild mannered reporter for the great metropolitan daily.
Q. List any of your job duties which require out of the ordinary physical strain.
A. I sneeze when I read dusty clips from the morgue. I also throw up when I see my edited copy some mornings.
“Aw, hell,” he wrote, “it’s just one great lark.” Amen.
When El Nuevo Herald (where I worked in the '80s) and The Herald shared the newsroom, I always thought we were too noisy as neighbors. My consolation was Gene Miller. He was one of us! We could hear him when he talked, when he laughed, when he unfailingly said hello in passing. And I always appreciated the two taps on my desk (which Rosenberg has mentioned)whenever he walked by. Two taps for you now, Gene Miller.
Never had the honor of meeting Mr. Miller but never missed one of his pieces. No doubht journalism has suffered a great loss.
I don't have words to describe Gene's vast talent. But I do recall so fondly the little things he did to make life in the Herald newsroom more interesting. When the bulding at No. 1 Herald Plaza was new, each reporter was given a desk and a low two-drawer file cabinet. When Gene's copious notes began to overflow his file, he asked for a second cabinet. Nosiree, said newsroom manager Roland Dopson. The next morning, a wooden orange crate appeared beside Gene's desk with his overflow files neatly stacked inside. But by the next dawn, the orange crate was gone, its contents piled on Gene's desk. The next morning, another orange crate appeared, this one wrapped in chains and padlocked to Gene's desk. Dopson knew when he was defeated and Gene got his second file cabinet.
Thank you, Gene, for being our local contact for world class journalism.
Terry: My sympathy to you and your family. Karen Chwick
Gene already was a legend back in January 1963, when I was hired as a reporter with The Herald. Out in the far-flung bureaus, I used to read and re-read his stories. For me, they were like a post-graduate journalism textbook, only more eloquent—they showed how details build credibility, every word counts, you can have compassion and still turn in a balanced story.
When I worked the city desk and got bugged at all the weird callers during a full moon, Gene taught me to lighten up. Forty years later, I can still recall his exact words: “Nobody ever gets to me on the phone.”
Lunch with Jim Savage and Gene was the high point of my week. Their depth of knowledge about The Herald and local politics seemed inexhaustible. Hearing where all the bodies were buried was funnier than Saturday Night Live.
Gene Miller will always represent the very best of what journalism is all about.
Gene not only was a great journalist but a very special guy and a good friend.
When my first wife, Edith, was ill with terminal cancer, Gene and Electra (even though she herself was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer) asked to visit her! Their counsel was indeed most comforting.
Gene's outstanding excellence as a journalist was exceeded only by
his extreme caring for his fellow humans.
My wife Sandy joins me in extending our condolences. We, too, shall miss him.
Classmate, Bosse Highschool,Evansville,IN Class of '49. I enjoyed the class reunions so much and was proud to tell my Miami friends "I knew you way back when". Thanks for the memories. My condolences to the family.
A little more than 30 years ago, Gene wrote a wonderful Page One obituary of his Herald colleague, Leo Adde. The kindness Gene and his family displayed to ours during that tough time has never been forgotten. For my mom, brothers and sisters, I say thanks, Gene. It does our hearts good to know you and dad are probably sharing the first drink together in a long time. Enjoy your martini. Dad, you do the same with the scotch.
I have never forgotten the kindness Mr. Miller and his family showed me after the death of my father. They brought me in their home and let me finish my senior year of high school. I may have never properly thanked them, but it meant more to me then they ever suspected. Rest in peace, Mr. Miller.
Gene Miller was a kind and funny support friend and colleague for my beloved husband,Derick Daniels, during his battle with cancer earlier this year. When those two get together in that great newsroom in the sky, things will never be the same again. (or, is that "sane".) My heartfelt sympathies go to his wife and family. Please contact me if I can do anything at all for you.
The newsroom was quieter Friday than I've ever seen it. Sad, sober, somewhat lost.
Gene would appear at my desk, tap twice and erupt with exacting outrage at something I'd reported --a detail, the topic at hand, some injustice. He was a most excellent newspaper reader. We're going to miss that outrage.
In so many ways, Gene Miller was the Miami Herald. It’s hard to imagine the place without him.
He was the first Herald person I ever met. He and Pete Weitzel recruited me out of school on a cold winter day in 1982. I was sitting at a desk in Neighbors three months later.
Gene kept tabs on the reporters he had hired. When you wrote a story he liked, he sent a memo. “Gene Miller to Lisa Getter,” it would say, followed by a compliment. I kept them all.
Gene had the ability to bring out the best in reporters. His passion for a story was contagious. He’d tell you to go get it, and you would. When I covered Miami City Hall, I got to work with Gene on a bunch of stories: the strange case of the city worker who claimed he was an heir to the Rothschild family, but was really a convicted felon with a rap sheet three pages long; the only-in-Miami story of public officials buying stolen clothes from a Little Havana duplex, which Gene insisted we call the Suit Case; the time Joe Carollo called for a boycott when he heard that Chinese officials were going to visit Miami, except it turned out they weren't communist officials after all. They were from Taiwan. Gene called it the case of the wrong China.
I often swam at lunch with Gene and some other reporters. Gene was a legendary slow swimmer. But he had stamina. He kept challenging me to a race. I kept putting it off. I didn’t want him to beat me. I know he would have. He knew it, too.
Gene was the secret in the Miami Herald's long record of Nieman Fellows. Gene was a Nieman, too. He kept a file of all the essays that winning fellows had written over the years. If you wanted a fellowship, you’d ask Gene for that file, and if you were lucky, Gene would look over your essay, too.
Gene’s magic worked for me. The Nieman year was one of the best years of my life.
Even after I left the Herald, Gene stayed in touch. When my son Sammy was born two years ago, one of the first phone calls I got in the hospital was from Gene. He followed up with a present: a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. “Kid, you tell your mommy and daddy that they should read this book Very Loud Very Fast and make No Mistakes!”
Gene later told me he kept a stash of those books in his desk, ready to send to friends with newborns. How Gene: always first, always right.
I read Sammy the book last night. Very loud. Very fast. And with lots of mistakes.
I miss you, Gene.
First, my sympathies to his wife and children, whose great loss I sense and share. Gene Miller molded The Miami Herald more than anyone else, save John Knight himself. His example inspired scores of young journalists, myself included. He had an almost heroic lucidity about him, tempered with great kindness and human warmth. I have never known a clearer, more diamond-like intellect. He was like a human burning-glass, focusing everything into "bright shafts of daylight," as Lucretius says. Yet he could use wonderful phrases like "scared the bejabbers out of him."
He wore his natural talent lightly. You never felt jealous of him. You just wanted to be more like him.
I was hired at The Herald late in 1978, right at the time of the Jonestown horror in Guyana. Miller flew down and his dispatches were electrifying. I mailed them to my parents in Jacksonville, basking in his reflected glow. "This," I told them, "is the kind of paper I'm working for now!"
An editor at another newspaper once told me that no one in the news business is indispensable. He was wrong. Miller was, and still is, indispensable. The debt I owe him is beyond reckoning. I shall miss him, honor him and remember him for the rest of my life.
As a young lawyer, I was privileged to work with Gene Miller on the Pitts-Lee case for nine years 1966-75 and got to know him very well. He was the most tenacious investigator I have ever met. Gene would NEVER EVER take "no" for an answer. He dug up more witnesses, more leads, more information for me on the case than I scarcely imagined possible. And he had a passion for righting injustice that is rare among reporters. I will miss him terribly. He was my friend.
Gene Miller was the consummate reporter -- and probably the best reporter to live and work in the 20th century. He made it seem so simple, even effortless, by demonstrating with every story the special gifts that made his legend bolder than any headline.
Among his many special traits were a kindness, warmth and generosity of spirit that made young reporters relaxed enough to take encouraging direction from the master, Miller. Sometimes he did it by wheeling his chair over to you in the newsroom, holding out a copy of a story he was working on and earnestly asking, "What do you think of this lead graph?" Even on deadline, he was a great teacher with an approach that often began with him seeming to seek the counsel of others.
As a young reporter at The Herald in the 1970s, I was fortunate to be among those tutored by Gene Miller. Those lessons made all of us better reporters. Working with him made us all better professionals. Herald readers enjoyed a far better newspaper and community for decades because of his influence over both.
God bless you, Gene. Thanks.
The memories of the "Martini Express" We had great times living around the corner from each other. Your dad was a very sweet person I will never forget him.
I first met Gene Miller in January 1978 on my initial day of work at the Tallahassee Democrat. It was two years after Pitts and Lee had been freed, and he was a legend. Gene was in town to cover the murders of two Chi Omega sorority sisters, a sensational crime that shortly led to the arrest of Theodore Bundy, one of the nation's most notorious and prolific serial killers. We'd given Gene an empty desk right next to mine. He worked the phones for 10 hours straight. I remember him saying again and again, "And then what happened?" He must have said it 300 times. I don't recall him saying anything else, although he must have. They say a good reporter knows how to get out of the way of the story. Gene was a really good reporter.
I read your stories long before I met you and it was a privilege to be a friend. I value the time spent together and wish it could have been more, because I know you had many good stories I never heard.
What an interesting and rewarding life! Damn good job, my friend.
It hasn't been a full day yet, but you're probably already organizing, editing, and mentoring at The Pearly Gates Gazette.
Gene Miller was a proud link to the days when reporters raised hell and fought for the little guy.
Its so different now. I wonder if we'll ever see his kind again.
Gene, well done.
My condolences to his immediate family, especially Daniel, Caroline, and the Nostro family. He will be missed.
Caroline and Daniel: Our thoughts are with you this evening and beyond.
i would just like to offer my heart -felt sympathy to the miller family may god bless you .
Straight to the point.
He was a newspaperman. As good a newspaperman as you will ever meet.
And a great guy.
I told Miller years ago that I wanted him to outlive me so that he could write my obituary. (Everybody called him “Miller” in the 1950s Herald newsroom. He called his own children “Miller.”)
On my first day at the Herald, John McMullan sent me out to accompany Gene on his Miami Beach beat and get a sense of the city. “Don’t get any of Miller’s bad habits!” he yelled as we headed for the elevator. I never knew what John meant, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t even get Miller’s good habits. I could never outwrite him, and on the biggest story that we covered together, Chappaquiddick, I mostly held his coat while he piled up the details.
The collection of Miller anecdotes in our tribal memory will enliven newswriting lectures as long as there are journalism schools.
When I think of The Miami Herald I knew from the time my dad started working there in 1970 to when I left in 2001, my mind quickly turns to Gene Miller. After all, how many two-time Pulitzer Prize winners are there? I read his book on the Mackle kidnapping while spending a couple of nights at Pete Weitzel's home in North Carolina. I once promised Gene great tickets to an Orange Bowl game that turned out to be high up in the end-zone. Heard about that one for a few years... The newspaper business lost a giant at 9:12 a.m. today. As this guest book attests, he will be missed by former colleagues all over the country. Best wishes to Caroline and the rest of the family.
Nearly three decades and several million inches of edited copy ago, I had the honor of working in the Herald newsroom. Much of this honor came from working with outstanding and dedicated journalists, and Gene Miller can easily be described as the dean of these outstanding professionals.
Investigative journalism in America has lost a titan.
Gene interviewed me over the phone for my summer internship in 2002. Included in my package: a letter of rec from Steve Randall, a professor at USC – and an editor at Playboy. The interview lasted 45 minutes. Gene grilled me about the letter for 30 minutes. Do you really know Steve? What would he say about you? Does he give letters of rec to everybody? I nearly convinced myself I was a fraud.
Later, he called Steve and grilled him. Gene called the letter “effusive.” Steve defended me. I looked up the word in the dictionary.
When I arrived at the Herald, the intern poster quoted the Playbody letter. Gene, grinning, mentioned it I ran into him. Reporters thought I had worked at Playboy.
Classic Gene. I love my job at The Herald. Too bad it wasn't 20 years ago.
Our heartfelt sympathy to Caroline and Gene's children.The family reflects Genes wit,wisdom,and charm.Our son,Steve,was fortunateto be with Gene during many happy family times
Larry and Arlene Travis
I never met Gene but somehow felt I knew him through his daughter, Robin, and her stories of him. He will truly be missed by family and friends. Gin trumps flowers!
My first memory of Gene is his rousing "Ha!" of a laugh, during one of his forays "collecting interns", as Merzer put it.
I was terrified to be in the same room with anyone from the Miami Herald, and Gene's laugh put me at ease.
I ended up there, and years later, I still remember the details of the stories he edited and the changes he made and the pithy bits of advice he dispensed. (Gene made sure you learned to remember the details.)
I announced today to our afternoon news meeting that journalism had lost a great one. But as long as those he taught keep trying to dispense his bits of wisdom to the next generation, he will live on.
I'm just shocked that Gene is gone. He's a guy I thought would be around forever. In my mind's eye, he is still as young as when I last saw him in the mid 1970s before I moved from Miami to other opportunities. I shared some e-mail with him about a year ago -- the subject of which I can't recall -- but I remember he responded with the same spark he had when I was just a cub editor. We are all better having known him. And we are all diminished by his passing.
News Design Editor
Los Angeles Times
I go back with Gene to Royal manual typewriters and copy paper, paste pots, the "old" Herald bulding on South Miami Avenue, hot type and those wonderfully rambunctious journalists yet to be tamed by rigid corporate rules.
All the qualities Gene embodied then he retained until the day he left us.
And chief among them was that strangers and colleagues knew they could trust Gene - trust his word, trust his ethics, and trust his devotion to a calling of service.
Gene said something nice to me once about something I'd written in Neighbors. Gee, this guy reads Neighbors? I was puffed up for days. Guess I still am, 23 years later.
Humane. Uncommonly clear thinker. Funny. A wordsmith's wordsmith. Words that come to mind when thinking of the three times Gene Millerized me with reporting strategy guidance and glistening rewrites. Much respect, Big Man. Much respect.
On one of my very first days as a newbie reporter at the Herald in 1997, I saw Gene in the elevator going up to the newsroom. I knew he was someone important but I didn't know who he was yet.
He looked me over and said, "You new?"
I replied "Yes."
He said, "Well, do what I do: FAKE IT!"
Then he proceeded to belly laugh the entire ride up to the 5th floor. My jaw was on the ground.
Over the next few years, every time he saw me he would bang on my desk and say hello. He edited (and I don't use the term lightly) several of my stories, and we had great fun while while he did it. It was an amazing experience to watch him work, and an even better one to know him.
I was a copy boy, which is what we were called then, at the Miami News in the early 60's. Once as a group of editors walked by I overheard the late, great editor Bill Baggs say, "Miller is always beating us. Why is that?" I didn't know who "Miller" was until I asked around. Since then I have followed his great work as a writer and editor, and have enjoyed the many stories about him. Long ago, through his work, he was one of the people who inspired me to continue in newspapering. I once briefly met him, and like so many great people, he was very quiet and unassuming. Yes, he was a great writer and a great editor, but moreso he was a great person. He will live on in our memories and through his words. There will be no -30- for Gene Miller.
Robin & Tom -
just wanted to extend my condolences to you both... I was visting my mom in Westchester & I happen to pass your old house.
(Coral Park 1980)
You were the best, Gene. Betsy
Gene was the greatest reporter I ever met, and a greater man, full of love and laughter. We worked together in the early 60s and remained friends forever. I’ll always remember his three “rules” for success in journalism: 1) Plagiarize; 2) Plagiarize; 3) Plagiarize. The funny thing is, he never did. The rest of us tried, by reading him. With tears in my eyes and condolences to his family:
I was a young news clerk and Gene Miller helped me write two stories that under his editing became great. One was about a bumbling bandit in Hialeah who got stuck in a cafeteria's ventilator shaft. The bandit had used the shaft as an entry point to steal cash and instead it became his prison. But the detail Gene zoomed in on was the fact that luckily the owners had remembered to turn off the grill.
The other story was about a 14-year-old girl who had dialed 9-1-1 saying there was a dinosaur outside her house. It was actually an iguana. But Gene's lead was, "Well, it looked like a dinosaur!" I will never forget the leads Gene wrote, just like I will never forget Gene. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
Of all the memorable characters my parents entertained in their home when I was a kid, Gene Miller stood out among a very interesting crowd. Sharp, insightful, witty and charming, my sister Nancy and I often asked Mom (Jean Russell) and Dad (Jim Russell) to "invite the guy with the bow tie over for dinner." We were, at a very young age, rather smitten with his verve, humor and keen mind. And he was cute. He reminded me of the sort of dashing but offbeat types that appeared in those wacky 60's films, a wry counterpoint to a dopey Rock Hudson. He wrote me a complimentary note after seeing me perform in a Neil Simon play at the Grove Playhouse: "You can pull that act with me anytime, doll." Something sweet and punchy. I still have the note. I admired his great work as a reporter, happy to tell friends I knew a Pulitzer prize winner personally. He once commented on my long-delayed novel-in-progress at our annual Christmas party, "Where's your manuscript?" That was the Gene I loved; cut-to-the-chase, right on the mark. I know all the real newspapermen and women of his era share in the grief at his passing. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
Gene was amazing, and so inspiring. I adored him, and I envied him for the period of journalism he got to experience. Good for him for the stories he took on (and the editors). He will be missed. I read '83 Hours Till Dawn' as a kid and never knew he wrote it, or that his first job was in my hometown, until this obit. Good for the Herald for printing it as-is.
For those of us reporters who came of age when Knight-Ridder seemed to shine most brightly, Gene Miller's work buffed it to a blindly high gloss.
I remember Gene in the late '70s and early '80s: mentoring the Herald's investigative reporters as they produced the kind of journalism that he had helped make the paper famous for; coaxing crisp prose from the electric typewriters and early computers of young reporters who had much to learn and were learning fast from the master; gently guiding other editors who sometimes needed guidance in the ways of bold, powerful journalism; infecting the whole newsroom with his boisterous enthusiasm for reporting and writing and editing; Gliding in slow laps with the late Bill Montalbano in their friend's pool under Miami's hot summer sun; sitting in the shade with drinks, gabbing and laughing and enjoying people and life as they are meant to be enjoyed; giving sage advice with an understanding hand on a friend's shoulder. An amazing man. My condolences to his family.
What a guy. He taught us how to write, or better, what people want to read. Tales of working with Gene have probably peppered more martini-laden reporters' lunches than any other war stories. My favorite will remain Gene's absolute delight in finding that his reporter had in hand a divorce suit complaint: "The details come from a nasty divorce," must have been on Gene's save-get key. Like many, I bristled at getting Millerized, but when it came to pick out my best clips, the ones Gene helped with were right on the top. Cheers.
As a former Neighbors editor at The Herald, I often wanted Gene to visit our journalism students when I began teaching at the University of Miami. Someone told me that Gene didn't do classroom journalism, so I never asked him. Instead, I would take all of the stories that Herald reporters would tell me about how Gene had "Millerized" their stories - all for the better - and use those anecdotes in my classes.
His wisdom made it into the classroom afterall.
Thank you, Gene, for that and so much more.
Miami, June 17, 2005
I am one of the many people who trusted and respected, and took advice from, Gene during the years that I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. I first met him and fell under his charismatic spell when I worked in the Herald newsroom as an all-purpose assistant in the entertainments department in 1968, fresh out of college at age 21. Gene was one of those inspired and inspiring people that everyone naturally looked to when wondering how to cover a news story and write well about it. I watched with awe as Gene calmly rewrote and edited deadline-pressured articles by on-scene reporters about the Miami riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4 that year. Gene deftly converted the maelstrom of disjointed data pouring into the newsroom from multiple telephonic voices into a coherent and colorful account of what was happening in the city’s convulsed streets. Several years later I got the daunting assignment of competing with Gene in covering the corruption trial of former U.S. Senator Ed Gurney in the federal district court in Tampa in 1975, along with many other news media representatives. Gene covered the 5-1/2-month jury trial for the Herald, and I for the St. Petersburg Times. Gene not only beat me regularly at news developments, he also beat me from time to time on details that he noticed and I missed. For instance, Gurney used to bring a small cushion to sit on in the courtroom due to prostate problems. One day, Gene's lead in his Herald article was something like: "Yesterday was a two-cushion day at the trial of former Senator Edward Gurney". Sure enough, the day before Gurney had walked in front of both Gene and I – and all the other assembled reporters and camerapersons -- carrying two cushions into the courtroom to sit on instead of the customary one. Gene had noticed that fleeting detail and I had not. When I acknowledged my chagrin at my observational failure, Gene laughed it off and made sure I did not drown in my competitive sorrow. One day toward the end of Gurney’s trial, Gene convinced me that we should both ask the clerk of the court for permission to look at certain trial documents, and the clerk, after consulting with presiding U.S. District Judge Ben Krentzman, said no. Believing that the rights of the free press were outrageously being trampled upon, Gene convinced his editors and the Herald’s lawyers to sue for access to the trial documents, and I and the St. Petersburg Times and its lawyers joined in the suit. Unfortunately, we lost and “made bad law” when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Krentzman’s rulings. The case was United States v. Gurney, 558 F.2d 1202 (5th Cir. 1977), cert. denied sub nom. Miami Herald Pub. Co. v. Krentzman, 435 U.S. 968 1978) (affirming limitations on news media access to court proceedings, and holding that a trial judge can place restrictions on news reporters and others involved with the proceedings despite the fact that such restrictions might affect First Amendment considerations.) But I was proud to have my name recorded in the august law tomes of American jurisprudence with Gene’s as fellow plaintiffs fighting honorably for the First Amendment. Years later, when I returned to the Herald as assistant managing editor for news in 1986, Gene remained a good friend through a controversial period of my life, very supportive of my efforts to try to increase diversity of personnel and news coverage at the newspaper. He always had a smile for those like me who sought in conversations with him some measure of relief from the workday’s relentless stress. He was always available and willing to generously listen and provide sage advice, many times over lunches during which I listened intently to his humorous journalistic war stories and multiple suggestions for improving the Herald. He was truly a most unforgettable character, and I will miss him fondly. My sincerest condolences to Caroline and to Daniel, and to Gene's children and grandchildren, on their great loss.
Twenty years later, I'm still trying to master "the Miller chop." Thanks, Gene, for showing me how newswriting can and should be.
My condolences to Gene's family, particularly to his children. Your father was in many ways a father figure to all of us who worked as reporters or editors at The Miami Herald. We learned a lot. So know that your father was a generous man who shared his wisdom with his colleagues.
I never met Mr Miller, nor read any of his articles as I just moved here last year, but reading his self penned obituary made me laugh and cry. What a great man and what a huge loss!
Gene Miller was far more than a great reporter; he was an inspiration. I got to know him a little in the 1980s, when I was starting my career on the old Miami News; we talked about Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, and how to spot a great story and we talked about details - how everything was in the details. I had grown up reading him, and remember how awed I was meeting him and how down-to-earth he was, how easy to talk to. He was one of the people who made working for a newspaper feel like a calling, not just a job. Of course that comment would only have drawn instant ridicule from a man who never took himself too seriously. As he once pointed out to me, "A journalist is just a reporter with two suits.''
The Herald was lucky to have him. And all of us who read him and learned from him were lucky.
Gene Miller was a buddy and tough competitor in a Miami that is long ago and far away. I am gratified that Gene got the last word by writing his own obituary.
The first time an editor told me, a green Herald reporter, that Gene Miller had spotted a story of mine on the budget and had taken an interest, I had no idea what that meant. I soon found out that it meant that Gene would occupy the pilot's chair, before the computer, and I would sit at his side, straining to lean over so I could see what he was doing. What he was doing, of course, was sifting through the box of rocks that I had delivered (with me thinking it was already a story) so Gene could see if I had unwittingly tossed in a diamond. Sometimes he found one. More often, he told me to take up my shovel and go dig some more.
I would grumble and complain and tell Gene he was nuts or wrong or both. Often, he cheerfully agreed. By the second or third time I got Millerized, however, it dawned on me that I was learning what the point of a story really was. When that happened, it was like the planets finally figured out how snap into alignment.
Gene, you were the stuff.
Oh, dear, what a terrible loss. If it's true that no two people are alike, it's also true that Gene was more unalike everyone else than anyone I've ever known. It was my good fortune to work at The Herald from 1974 to 1978, when Gene was in his prime as reporter, bon vivant and friend. The kinds of journalism he and I did could not have been less similar, but he responded to the arrival of The Herald's first full-time book editor with enthusiasm, support and plenty of gin. He was the soul of his newspaper to a degree rivaled by no one else I've known, and I've known several very good, very dedicated people in this strange (as Gene knew) but, at its infrequent best, honorable (as Gene also knew, and as he exemplified) business. Tonight's martini(s) will be for you, Gene, with fond memories, deep affection, and more respect than words can express.
I was a young editor at a Herald suburban paper in, oh, 1973, when one of my reporters was at a stakeout for a bank robbery. The case turned out far more interesting than anticipated. Two bad cops had set up the robbery in order to kill their own informant.
Gene had been drafted to give me a hand. I recall the beginning of the conversation.
Sugg: The robbers were running towards their getaway car.
Miller: What kind of car?
Sugg: I dunno. Four wheels, I guess.
Miller: You stupid or what? Get the details, man.
So I find out that the car was a Buick.
Miller: What color?
Sugg: Oh, hell, I didn't ask.
Miller: Try being a reporter and get the facts.
And so it went. At Gene's prodding, we did the obvious -- pulled the Dept of Motor Vehicles info -- and it turned out the car was owned by the police department. That broke open the story.
I'm conveying the words Gene said. But he was never really harsh. There was always warmth. Even today, I'm afraid not to over-report in case I miss one of those details.
There's so much I could say, but Gene would have just trimmed it down and then it would have sounded much better.
Caroline & Daniel, please know that my thoughts are with you at this difficult time, and accept my heartfelt sympathy.
Gene had it all -- guts, smarts, style, and an eagerness to help those of us less well endowed. It's one of the highlights of my career that he once asked -- asked, mind you -- if he could borrow a line I had written. If you want to know what journalists are supposed to be like, study Gene Miller's life. Then go live it.
Gene and Electra hosted me and my wife to dinner at their home several times during the early '80s, when I was a Herald editorial writer. What wonderful people. He was the soul of The Herald. The self-obit he wrote, with Marty Merzer's fine framing, is as good as The Herald _ and journalism _ gets. I treasure his memory.
Here's to Gene - to a life wonderfully lived, to a swim and a martini a day, to getting the word "lollapalooza'' into a lede long before it became a rock festival, and to making us all feel like champions.
Caroline and Daniel, I hope that your many happy memories of Gene will give you comfort and solace. He was a wonderful man. Dawn
Now out to pasture, I was one of the
editors who from time to time engaged in a battle royal with Gene. I did then and even more so now treasure those memories. Journalism and all of us are poorer now.
My heartfelt sympathies to his family and son, Tom. Enjoyed Mr. Miller's company in his old neighborhood as his front-door neighbor. We will always remember him fondly. He was a gentleman.
I was so sorry to hear about Gene. I'm thinking about you. love Sari
Gene was an impressive man & will remain a significant & positive presence in our community. We were all blessed to have him among us. My sympathies to all of his family but especially to his beloved Caroline & Daniel.
After the Kent State shootings, Gene wrote a long piece that recreated that horrible day, minute by minute. Among the wealth of detail that Gene used to bring that day tragically alive for his readers was a paragraph about the campus bell that chimed in the stillness after the National Guard gunfire. Gene called a Kent music professor to ask what note that bell was tuned to. No detail was too small for Gene, no effort too great; that's why his stories were so wonderful.
When I saw the news, I turned to colleagues here at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and said, 'The best reporter I ever knew died today.' I was a colleague of Gene's on the Herald city desk from 1970-76 and, like many young reporters, learned much from him, most of all a passion for this craft. He even forgave me when I became an editor. Thanks, Gene.
I will always treasure the evenings when Tom, "Mean Gene" an I would sit around the living room of his Westchester home listening to his stories all night long and remembering how I always envied Tom because he had such a great dad. I spent so much time over at their house that the Miller's became my second family. I will miss Gene. But most of all I know how much Janet, Terry, Tom and Robin will miss him as well.
Gene was a great mentor and friend who changed the course of many people’s lives - not just the innocent Death Row inmates he saved, but ordinary reporters including me. He hired me for a Miami Herald internship in the summer of 1997 - in part, I think, because my few clips were from my hometown Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette, where he had started his newspaper career many decades earlier - when no other major daily was interested. He later was the chief advocate of offering me permanent job in Miami after college, similarly the only offer I received.
He maintained an interest throughout my early years in Miami. Although I didn’t work in the main office, I took Spanish lessons there twice a week in a conference room next to his office, and I’d always stop and say hello afterward. My first Thanksgiving in Florida, when I couldn’t go home, Gene invited me to come share turkey with his family. From time to time he also invited me to baseball games, the symphony, or just lunch.
He also used his legendary editing skills to amp up a couple breakthrough articles that helped me get promoted out of Neighbors. He could write like a storm: I once found a copy of an out-of-print book he wrote about the case of a kidnapped girl who was buried alive, “83 Hours Till Dawn,” and the account of the crime just grabs you by the throat. Being edited by Gene – having your story “Millerized” – forced you to swallow your pride, because he wasn’t shy about imposing his staccato style on your prose. But the stories were always better for it.
He had a great laugh (an abrupt eruption of a single “HA!”) and a booming, happy voice. He’d pound on filing cabinets and shout hello to people in the newsroom as he strode toward his office. And he was wry: when I wrote a few early articles about cops who were named Officer at the Month for the Neighbors section, he told me to hold onto the photographs because inevitably they’d be indicted for something and we’d need it again. Later, when we were both fighting cancer, we shared a sense of defiant camaraderie, joking about barium milkshakes and our determination to enjoy living in the present.
The last time I saw him was two years ago, when it became time for me to leave Miami and move to DC for the Boston Globe because I was getting married. He and his wife invited my then-fiancée and me to have dinner at their home. He liked my wife-to-be, but then he always had a thing for Radcliffe girls, having married two of them himself. He wasn’t so keen on Washington, warning me not to fall into the habit of using anonymous sources and saying many a good reporter had been ruined by that Beltway habit. We had a great time, draining bottles of wine and talking into the night. He knew he wasn’t going to live forever, but he accepted that with a laugh.
Gene had a long and extraordinary life, of which the two Pulitzer wins were only a symbol of the extraordinarily positive impact he had on the people around him.
A very special man and my dearest friend for more than 40 years. I will always miss his intellect, his humor and his humanity. My thoughts are with Caroline, Janet & Lou, Robin & Steve, Tom & his wife, and Terri.
Truly one in a million...
What an amazing reporter, a courageous man, a fighter, a hero.
We will all miss miss him. Our deepest sympathies to Caroline and family. Gene was so proud of all of you. Love, Eunice
I grew up in Miami. I never met the man. I used to read his stories and try to figure out how he did what he did. I am sorry I was not a better pupil.