|Roderick Luke Miller|
|Spouse(s)||(1) Clemencia "Clemy" Clotworthy Miller (died)|
(2) Jane Brinkhaus Gaiennie Miller (surviving spouse)
Roderick Luke Miller, known as Rod Miller (October 20, 1924—January 15, 2005), was a Lafayette attorney and a pioneer in the development of the Republican Party in Louisiana. He was the third Republican since Reconstruction to be elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives and the first ever from Lafayette Parish, subsequently one of the stronger Republican-leaning parishes in the state. Miller served half of a legislative term from 1966-1968. He was also a member of the Republican State Central Committee and the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee. Prior to his death, he had received his party's "Lifetime Service Award."
Miller was born in Reddell in Evangeline Parish to Cleophas Miller (1888-1971), a railroad employee, and the former Isabelle Michot (1895-1975). Miller graduated from Vidrine High School in Evangeline Parish and then served during World War II in the United States Army Air Corps as a navigator on B-29's. He was reactivated as a first lieutenant during the Korean War. Between the two wars, Miller graduated in 1947 from the institution now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then Southwestern Louisiana Institute). He then graduated in 1949 from Loyola University Law School in New Orleans.
Miller and Mouton, friends and political rivals
Then Miller switched parties at the time when it was said that the GOP, with very few voters under its umbrella, could caucus in a phone booth. He was elected to the Louisiana House in a special election upset on March 22, 1966, to succeed his Democratic friend, Edgar G. "Sonny" Mouton, Jr. (pronounced MOO TAHN), Miller polled 9,210 votes (50.2 percent) to Democrat W.J. "Hook" Robicheaux's (pronounced ROW BI SHOW) 9,125 ballots (49.8 percent). Miller's margin was hence 85 votes.
Representative Mouton had been elected to the state senate in an earlier special election created by the resignation of state Senator Garland L. Bonin (pronounced BOH NEAN). Miller hence served the remaining two years of Mouton's House term. Miller served in the House with three other Republicans, Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O'Hearn, both of Shreveport in Caddo Parish, and Edward Clark Gaudin of Baton Rouge.
In 1968, in what turned out to be a real blunder, Miller gave up his House seat to challenge Mouton for a full term in the state senate. Mouton easily prevailed—57.1 percent of the vote to 42.9 percent for Miller. Miller's House seat also reverted to the Democrats. Indeed, as a result of the 1968 elections, there were no Republicans in the entire (House or Senate) 144-member legislature. By 2011, Republicans had majorities for the first time in both houses.
In 1972, Miller challenged Mouton for state senate reelection and lost again. Mouton polled 18,771 votes (62.2 percent) to Miller's 11,395 (37.8 percent). In defeat, Miller still ran 8.5 percentage points ahead of Republican gubernatorial candidate David C. Treen in Lafayette Parish.
Mouton served in the state Senate from 1966-1980 and ran for governor, as senate president pro tempore, in the 1979 jungle primary. He finished in sixth place with 124,333 votes (9.1 percent). Though Mouton was considered one of the more liberal candidates in the governor's race, he surprised observers by endorsing Republican Treen in the general election. Treen was then making his second gubernatorial bid. After his narrow election, Treen named Mouton as his executive counsel. Mouton succeeded Edmund Reggie of Crowley, who was the counsel to outgoing Governor Edwin Washington Edwards, also of Crowley.
Mouton said that he and Miller "stayed close friends" by keeping politics and friendships separate. They were sworn in together in 1953 as the 46th and 47th attorneys in Lafayette Parish, Mouton said. The two helped to start the Hub City Kiwanis Club, and both were members of the Catholic men's organization, the Knights of Columbus.
"He was a good man. He had high ethics, and he was a good lawyer. His word was his bond. You could trust him completely. He left a good heritage. He will be missed. He was one of those who brought the Republican Party into a viable position in Lafayette Parish," Mouton said on the death of his friend and former political opponent.
In addition to Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus, Miller was a member of the Carmelite Men's Guild, the American Legion, and was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of the Acadiana Barbershop Chorus and the Four Fathers Quartet. His interest in the preservation of his native French language led Miller, a widower, to meet his second wife, Jane Brinkhaus Gaiennie Miller.
He was a member of the Christ the King Church of Lafayette. A conservative in theology as well as politics, Miller was opposed to changes in the church after Vatican II and supported priests and those bishops who remained faithful to the Mass of Pope Pius V.
Miller was preceded in death by his first wife, Clemencia "Clemy" Clotworthy Miller, infant daughter, Mary Evangeline Miller, and a sister.
In addition to his second wife Jane (born 1946), and son Father Francis, Miller was survived by four other sons, Thomas Justin Miller (born 1949) of Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish, and Kenneth Gerard Miller (born 1951), John Miller, and Normand Cleophas Miller (born 1965), all of Lafayette; three daughters, Mrs. Jeanine Billeaud (born 1957) and husband Bruce Steven Billeaud (born 1951) and Carmel Soileau (born 1963) and husband Daniel Christopher Soileau (born 1959) (pronounced SWAL LOW), both of Lafayette, and Julie McCarthy (born 1959) and husband John C. McCarthy (born 1953) of Shreveport; three sisters; three brothers; a stepson; two stepdaughters; 33 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Miller's funeral was a Requiem High Mass held at the Castille Funeral Home Chapel in Lafayette on January 18, 2005, conducted by his son, Father Francis Miller, with Fathers Kevin Vaillancourt and George McLaughlin assisting. He is interred at Calvary Cemetery in Lafayette.
Miller's Lafayette legacy
Miller's hometown newspaper, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, issued this editorial on his death:
"Rod Miller earned a place in the history of Louisiana politics. . . . He earned a lasting place in the history of Lafayette -- and of the Republican Party. In 1966, with the Democratic Party totally dominant in this community and across the state, Miller stood for election to the state House of Representatives -- and won. Never before had the people of Lafayette chosen a Republican to serve in that position.
"That victory proved that the wall of the Democrat stronghold could be breached, was a signal event -- a first step toward a two-party system and its wide-ranging benefits.
"A courageous fight for conservative principles such as less government interference in the lives of citizens and elimination of barriers to economic growth that stemmed from the old Huey P. Long, Jr., "soak the rich" political philosophy marked Miller's term in the legislature. He served honorably and well in an arena completely controlled by the opposition party.
"After Miller's election and tenure in office, several years passed before the Republican surge began in Louisiana and Lafayette. Once under way, it grew quickly in strength and influence. It will be remembered that Miller was responsible for the first crack in the Democrat political stronghold that held sway in Lafayette and the state from the Reconstruction era until recent years.
"He will be remembered for many things -- his dedicated involvement in community activities continued throughout his life -- but his pioneering work to establish a viable two-party system is perhaps the most lasting element of his legacy."
Lafayette Daily Advertiser, detailed Miller obituary, January 17, 2005
Statement by Edgar G. "Sonny" Mouton, Jr., on death of Roderick Miller, January 18, 2005
Lafayette Daily Advertiser, editorial on legacy of Roderick Miller
Billy Hathorn, "The Republican Party in Louisiana, 1920-1980", Master's thesis at Northwestern State University at Natchitoches, 1980
Social Security death index
Lafayette Daily Advertiser funeral notice, January 18, 2005
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