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Letter: Humble Miller achieved influence, didn’t wield it

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Terry Trautman


I read with great interest Harry McCawley’s article regarding Charlie Rentschler’s research and pending book about Irwin Miller. I was privileged to work for Irwin Management Co. from 1961 until 1971; and while I was a young accountant at the time and not privy to a lot of key meetings, I was able to observe Miller’s style of management, occasionally sit in on a meeting and be fortunate to work in the atmosphere of a company dedicated to the family and the family’s interests.

I’d like to add a word that I thought described Miller better than any other, especially a man of his ranking, power and influence. That word is “humility.” Power he had, but power was never his way. Ranking he had, but ranking was something he would hide in a corner somewhere. His influence was passive more than active. It was the result of what he did and not something he would wield.

A couple of examples. One day, I overheard Owen Hungerford (who worked at Irwin Management Co. at the time I did) tell Miller after his cover appearance in Esquire magazine that a group of Indiana University students had formed a “Miller for President” committee. Miller quipped, “They’ll get over it.” This was not a put-down of them but more one of himself.

On another occasion, Miller appeared as a guest on “Meet the Press” when he was named campaign manager for Nelson Rockefeller’s 1964 run for the presidency.

During the program, eager panelists kept interrupting comments he was trying to make. He paused briefly and then told the panel that in his home at the dinner table there was one rule by which they all abided. It was that whoever was talking was allowed to finish what they had to say before the next family member could speak. The chastised panelists got the message.

Finally, I need to disagree a bit with Lee Hamilton that Miller was a poor speaker. I do that with apologies to Hamilton, for whom I have the highest regard. I do not think that Miller was a “poor speaker.” What I think Hamilton meant was that Miller would not have been a good speaker in a run for the presidency. He was not bombastic. He was not theatrically oratorical, and he spoke with great economy.

Winston Churchill once said he could give a four-hour speech at a moment’s notice, but a 10-minute address takes hours of preparation. I think Miller must have read that. In my opinion he was a terrific speaker who used only the words necessary to make his point, and his audiences hung on every word because they all had substance.

Miller was a man who was always looking beyond the hood instead of in the rearview mirror.

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