Robert L. Miller
|Robert Lewis Miller, Sr.|
January 1, 1966 – December 31, 1998
|Preceded by||John H. Pickett|
|Succeeded by||Paul E. Osborne|
|Born|| July 24, 1927|
Taylor County, Kentucky
|Died||February 11, 2011 (aged 83)|
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Bernice Chapman Miller (married 1947–2000, her death)
(2) Jeania Judd Miller (married 2002–2011, his death)
|Occupation||Land surveyor; Businessman|
Robert Lewis Miller, Sr., known as Bobby Miller (July 24, 1927 – February 11, 2011),  was a politician and civic leader from Campbellsville in Taylor County in central Kentucky. He was principally known for his work as the mayor of the small city of Campbellsville from 1966 to 1998.
Miller was born in Taylor County to the late Martin K. Miller and the former Birdie Mae Baumgardner. He was a veteran of the United States Navy during the latter portion of World War II. He was a licensed land surveyor] and a retired employee of Tennessee Gas Transmission Company, based in Gabe in Green County, Kentucky. Miller was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Campbellsville and a trustee of Methodist-affiliated Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia in Adair County. He was active in Gideons International, a religious group which distributes Bibles to schools, hotel rooms, and other public places. Miller was a benefactor of the Boy Scouts, which awarded him its Silver Beaver Award.
On August 31, 1947, Miller married Bernice Chapman (July 28, 1931 – December 1, 2000). The couple had a son and two daughters, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. On May 17, 2002, the widower Miller married Jeania Judd, who had three children from a previous marriage.
After more than three decades in the nonpartisan position of mayor, Miller, a Republican, was unseated on November 2, 1998, by real estate agent Paul E. Osborne of Osborne-Humphress Realty Company, a Democrat. On Miller's death, Osborne described his former opponent as "a visionary who donated countless hours of his time to make the community better. I would say that most of Campbellsville's growth was because of his leadership." Osborne creded Miller with the development of the water line to the city from Green River Lake, the expansion of Campbellsville City Park, addition of a new municipal swimming pool, and the establishment of a professional, rather than volunteer, fire department. Osborne recalls that Miller worked all day at Tennessee Gas and then came to City Hall, where he remained as long as needed visiting with constituents and handling municipal business. According to Osborne, Miller "never heard of a problem he didn't like. He tried to solve all of them."
The Central Kentucky News-Journal, a twice-weekly publication, reported in a 1998 interview as Miller left office that Miller had always stressed the need to treat all persons the same: "Someone's problem is important to them, so I've got to make it important to me. I may not be able to solve it, but we can sure take the time to look at it." Miller did not become a full-time mayor until 1986, when he retired from Tennessee Gas.
Barry Bertram, the retired Commonwealth's Attorney from Campbellsville, noted that he and Miller had been friends for more than a half century: "You hardly ever run across anyone who didn't like Bob. He was the epitome of the public servant ... he loved his job as mayor, and he loved people. He was a genuine person with fine Christian principles."nk Metzmeier, a retired dentist and Campbellsville City Council member, described Miller as "one of the more outstanding members of our community. His commitment has never been surpassed . . . . He looked beyond individual needs to the community as a whole." Metzmeier recalls that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Campbellsville experienced years of consecutive heavy rains, that Miller was often found "in the middle of the night helping to sweep basements" of his constituents. Robert Miller, Jr. (born 1949), said that his father got along well with people because he respected them: "He didn't like to tell people 'no' if he could help it. . . . He was the kind of person who could make the most of his time. He loved Campbellsville as much as anyone could. Some may love it just as much, but no one could love it more."
An historian's perspective
Betty Jane Gorin-Smith, a retired Taylor County High School teacher and independent historian, recalls that early in Miller's tenure as mayor, public complaints went directly to the mayor's residence, rather than to a municipal secretary. Gorin-Smith said that Bernice Miller kept a notepad beside the telephone for "every drain that had to be cleaned out, every basement that needed to be pumped, every street light that was out, and every street sign that needed to be replaced. You could not visit at their house more than twenty minutes when the phone would ring, and the Millers would write down what needed to be done."
A longstanding Fruit of the Loom factory, known as Union Underwear, closed its Campbellsville plant in 1998 after forty-six years in business there. Gorin-Smith recalls that the city of Campbellsville had been planning to build a sewer system to treat wastewater from the plant. Miller met with Fruit of the Loom owner William F. "Bill" Farley, who purchased the company in 1985. Farley promised Miller that the Campbellsville plant would remain operational. Some four years after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, however, Fruit of the Loom bowed to globalization and ended its operation in Campbellsville, as also did the Indiana-based Batesville Casket Company. "That really hurt Bob to be betrayed like that," said Gorin-Smith."
Gorin-Smith said that Miller appreciated local history and was instrumental in the creation of the Hiestand House Museum at 1070 Campbellsville ByPass, which is named for the family of Gorin-Smith's father, David Hiestand Mitchell (1919–1995). Gorin-Smith recalls Miller's role in improvements to the Taylor County Hospital and the municipal library. Miller was also involved in the establishment of elderly housing complexes on Buckner Street and at Jackson Tower. "Ever friendly, helpful and kind, Bob Miller singly made more significant contributions to this town than any other individual in the 20th century," said Gorin-Smith.
James Alvin Hardy, Sr. (born ca. 1937), a former Campbellsville University administrator and Southern Baptist minister who formerly served on the Campbellsville City Council and as mayor pro-tem, said that Miller was the most unselfish man with whom he had worked: "The most important thing was that his real love for the whole community was evident in anything he attempted to do. And he loved the employees of the city . . . he was quick to help them in a personal way, not just as mayor."
Death and legacy
Miller died at the age of eighty-three from Alzheimer's disease. Services for Miller were held at Parrott and Ramsey Funeral Home in Campbellsville, with the Reverend Ron Young and the Honorable Barry Bertram officiating. Burial was in Brookside Cemetery in Campbellsville. On the day of the funeral, flags were flown at half-staff in Campbellsville in Miller's honor at the direction of then Mayor Tony W. Young.
Mike Ramsey, a former Campbellsville councilman, said no other person had done as much for the Campbellsville community as Miller: "It's not only the big things . . . it was the little things that nobody ever knew about that made all the difference. The Miller legacy lives on."Another councilman, Charlie Shaw, said that Miller would frequently be seen picking up trash alongside the road, weeding a flower bed, or straightening a street sign. Shaw recalls that Miller told him he wanted to be remembered as honest and fair and that Miller had tried his best in all endeavors. Shaw said that "If a man leaves this world with that [attitude], then he has been successful."
Richard RoBards, former publisher of the Central Kentucky News-Journal, said that Miller was not without criticism but that the former mayor "had a big heart and Campbellsville was always right in the middle of it." Municipal mechanic Joseph "Curly" Giles, who also worked with Miller for Tennessee Gas Transmission, said there was "no finer man anywhere than Bobby Miller. He was a good boss, and as long as you did your job right, he was happy."Rob Collins Bell offered this summation of the Miller legacy to Campbellsville:
It was such an honor to know this remarkable man. During his time as mayor of Campbellsville, our community experienced a lot of positive growth and development. He was light years ahead of his colleagues in park development, public roadway projects and community projects that are still vibrant and relative to the people of Taylor County today. Bobby Miller's personality was always warm and he made friends everywhere he went."
Three days after Miller's death, Samuel B. Harden (1922-2011) of Campbellsville, a former Taylor County sheriff, county judge, and property tax valuation administrator, also died. "We lost two civic leaders in a short time," noted then Taylor County Judge-Executive Eddie Rogers.
- Robert L. Miller, Sr. (1927-2011. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on February 15, 2020.
- Rebecca Cassell (February 12, 2011). Community icon dies at age 83: Robert L. Miller was mayor of Campbellsville for 33 years. Central Kentucky (Campbellsville) News-Journal. Retrieved on February 15, 2020; under pay wall.
- Beatrice Champman Miller (1931-2000). Findagrave.com. Retrieved on February 15, 2020.
- Robert L. Miller obituary. cknj.com (February 15, 2011). Retrieved on February 15, 2020; under pay wall.
- Campbellsville Real Estate: Osborne-Humphress Realty Company. osborne-humphress.com. Retrieved on February 15, 2020.
- Wayne Tompkins (June 18, 2005). Fruit of the Loom's closing tore at fabric of life in Campbellsville. Louisville Courier-Journal. Retrieved on February 24, 2011; no longer accessible on-line.
- Floye Minor Smith obituary. campbellsville.com (April 23, 2003). Retrieved on February 15, 2020.
- Remembering a remarkable man: Robert L. Miller. columbiamagazine.com (Columbia, Kentucky) (February 13, 2011). Retrieved on February 15, 2020.
- Calen McKinney (February 16, 2011). Former county official dies. Central Kentucky News-Journal. Retrieved on February 15, 2020; under pay wall.