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Huntington’s Tom Miller recalled as top journalist

Herald-Dispatch file photo by Sholten Singer Tom Miller speaks as St. Mary's Medical Center and the Sisters of the Pallottine Health Services host the Annual Prayer Breakfast in support of Faith in Action of the River Cities on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Huntington.
Herald-Dispatch file photo by Sholten Singer
Tom Miller speaks as St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Sisters of the Pallottine Health Services host the Annual Prayer Breakfast in support of Faith in Action of the River Cities on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Tom Miller is being remembered today as an outstanding reporter, colleague and humanitarian. Miller, 78, died Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Wyngate in Barboursville. A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Pea Ridge United Methodist Church.

He began working part time at The Herald Advertiser, the evening newspaper in Huntington, while a student at Marshall University. After his graduation in 1960, he became a full-time sports reporter, later moving into covering city and state government.

After retirement in 1995, Miller penned “Under the Dome,” a column about the West Virginia Legislature. Along the way, he earned the respect of his peers and many awards for his investigative reporting.

 “Tom had a tremendous impact on journalism in our region, from a landmark investigative project he did in 1974 called ‘Who Owns West Virginia’ to his years covering state government,” said Ed Dawson, editor and publisher of The Herald-Dispatch. “Tom also had one the busiest retirements I’ve seen, writing a weekly political column and spending many more hours helping community organizations.”

The “Who Owns West Virginia” project was awarded the 1975 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism.

A former staffer at The Herald-Dispatch, Jim Ware, said he learned a valuable lesson from Miller when he spoke to a group of reporters at the newspaper about how important it is to get the smallest detail right.

“‘Even if you write a story exposing wrongdoing by a public official, nobody will take you seriously if you get the guy’s name wrong,’ he said. That advice has stuck with me as a reporter and editor at five newspapers in four states.” Ware is the Public Safety Editor of the Wilmington (N.C.) Star News.

“Tom Miller was the best all-around journalist with whom I ever worked,” said Dave Peyton, columnist at The Herald-Dispatch. “No one could get to the heart of state matters like Tom. He was able to demystify the inner workings of the Legislature better than anyone. I often stood in amazement watching him work his magic in the halls of the Legislature.”

“Tom was one of the real icons in Herald-Dispatch history. There was a time when his voice had more influence than almost anyone in the state, elected or otherwise,” said Bob Gabordi, executive editor of Florida Today and a former editor of The Herald-Dispatch. “But the real privilege of working with him was knowing him as a person. His commitment to ethical journalism was matched by his gentlemanly personality. My prayers for his family, his friends and all of his colleagues who so admired him across generations.”

“It seemed everyone in Charleston respected him, but no one respected him more than I. His series, ‘Who Owns West Virginia,’ will go down as one of the best exposes on the sad state of affairs in West Virginia. In addition to all that, he was also one of the best poker players I have ever encountered,” Peyton said.

Apparently his poker-playing skills served him well.

“Tom and I were colleagues and friends for more than 40 years,” recalled James E. Casto, retired associate editor at The Herald-Dispatch. “In the late 1960s and early 1970s we were rival reporters, each assigned to cover Huntington city government. I was working for the Herald-Dispatch and Tom for the long-since-vanished Huntington Advertiser. He regularly scooped me on big City Hall stories. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out how he did that. Then I learned that he and City Manager Ed Ewing played in the same weekly poker game, which gave him a pipeline into what was happening — and about to happen — at City Hall.

 “Later, Tom covered state government for the Huntington newspapers and in that role he became something of a legend at the Legislature,” Casto said. “Tom knew everybody and, just as important, everybody knew him. When I would visit the Legislature to see what was going on, he was enormously helpful to me, pointing out those lawmakers I should talk with — and those best avoided.

“I’m proud to have worked with him — and to have had him as a friend.”

He was good friend to not only reporters and editors, but also to the community as a whole. Miller was involved with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Barboursville, his church, Pea Ridge United Methodist Church, Faith in Action and the Jeffrey George Comfort House.

In the formative years of Huntington Hospitality House, Miller was a neighbor and friend of founder Dr. Jeffrey George and helped in fundraising for the project. The Jeffrey George Comfort House closed in 2014. Miller had been on its board of directors and emceed the fundraiser Sweetheart Anniversary Ball each February.

“Tom’s reward (in heaven) surely will be great in return for his passion to help everyone he could,” said Jo Fannin, former director of the Comfort House.

See more from The Herald-Dispatch. 

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