William E. Miller

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William Miller
44th Chair of the Republican National Committee
In office
June 2, 1961 – June 15, 1964
Preceded byThruston Morton
Succeeded byDean Burch
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York
In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1965
Preceded byWilliam L. Pfeiffer
Succeeded byHenry P. Smith III
Constituency42nd district (1951–53)
40th district (1953–65)
Personal details
William Edward Miller

(1914-03-22)March 22, 1914
Lockport, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 24, 1983(1983-06-24) (aged 69)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Stephanie Wagner (m. 1943)
Children4, including Stephanie
EducationUniversity of Notre Dame (BA)
Union University, New York (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1942-1946
RankFirst Lieutenant
UnitJudge Advocate General's Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II

William Edward Miller (March 22, 1914 – June 24, 1983) was a New York politician. He was the Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 1964 election.[1] He was the first Catholic vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party (later joined by Paul Ryan in 2012).

Life and career[edit]

Miller was born in Lockport, New York, the son of Elizabeth (Hinch), who owned a small millinery shop, and Edward J. Miller, a factory floor sweeper.[2][3] His paternal grandparents were German immigrants, and his mother was of Irish descent.[4] Miller attended the University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1935) and Albany Law School of Union University, New York (LL.B., 1938).[5] He was admitted to the bar in 1938, and practiced in Lockport. In 1942, Miller was appointed a commissioner for the U.S. District Court in Buffalo.[5]

Military service[edit]

Miller served in the United States Army during World War II.[5] He enlisted on July 1, 1942 and received training in the Military Intelligence branch. After serving with an Intelligence unit in Richmond, Virginia, in May 1945, Miller received his commission as a first lieutenant and was assigned to the War Criminals Branch of the War Department staff.[5] In August 1945, he was assigned as assistant prosecutor of Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.[5] Miller was discharged in March 1946, and returned to Lockport.[5]

Political career[edit]

District attorney[edit]

Miller served as an assistant district attorney of Niagara County, New York from 1946 to 1948.[6] Governor Thomas E. Dewey appointed Miller district attorney in January 1948, and Miller won election to a full term in November.[6]


In 1950, Miller ran successfully for the United States House of Representatives; he was reelected six times, and served from 1951 to 1965. Miller rose through seniority to become the second-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and received credit for two major pieces of legislation. The first was a compromise on the development of Niagara Falls hydroelectric power, and the second was a law authorizing construction of a new Lake ErieLake Ontario canal east of the Niagara River.

Miller became influential with respect to the internal workings of the House. In 1959, he took part in the Republican caucus' action to replace Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Joseph W. Martin Jr. with Charles Halleck. Republicans had lost House seats in the 1958 election, and decided to replace the moderate Martin with the more conservative Halleck. Miller voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957,[7] 1960,[8] and 1964.[9]

In 1960, Miller won election as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee.[6] In the November election, the party gained 22 House seats, an achievement that was notable because it occurred as Republicans were losing the presidential election.[6]

Republican National Committee chairman[edit]

Miller's success with the 1960 House elections led to his selection as head of the Republican National Committee. He served from 1961 to 1964, and advocated for the party to become more conservative, including tacitly supporting Goldwater for the 1964 presidential nomination.

As chairman, Miller oversaw the party's efforts during the 1962 Congressional elections. Though Republicans lost five seats in the Senate, they gained four in the House. In addition, Democratic candidates in several races throughout the South experienced tougher than expected races, indicating that the domination the Democrats had enjoyed regionally since the Civil War was in peril. These included the moderate-to-liberal Senator J. Lister Hill of Alabama, who defeated business Republican businessman James D. Martin by just 50.9 percent to 49.1. Martin's strong showing demonstrated his viability as a candidate, and in 1964 he was elected to the U.S. House.

In the early 1960s, leading Republicans including Senator Barry Goldwater began advocating for a plan that they called the Southern Strategy, an effort to make Republicans gains in the Solid South, which had been pro-Democratic since the American Civil War. Under the Southern Strategy, Republicans would continue an earlier effort to make inroads in the south, Operation Dixie, by ending attempts to appeal to African American voters in the northern states, and instead appeal to white conservative voters in the south. As documented by reporters and columnists including Joseph Alsop and Arthur Krock, on the surface the Southern Strategy would appeal to white voters in the south by advocating against the New Frontier programs of President John F. Kennedy and in favor of a smaller federal government and states' rights, while less publicly arguing against the Civil rights movement and in favor of continued racial segregation.

Miller concurred with Goldwater, and backed the Southern Strategy, including holding private meetings of the RNC and other key Republican leaders in late 1962 and early 1963 so they could decide whether to implement it. Overruling the moderate and liberal wings of the party, its leadership decided to pursue the Southern Strategy for the 1964 elections and beyond.

Vice presidential candidate[edit]

After winning the Republican presidential nomination, Goldwater chose Miller to be his running mate.[6] In Goldwater's telling, he picked Miller because "he drives Johnson nuts" with his Republican activism. But by some other accounts, Johnson "was barely aware of Miller's existence." Miller's Eastern roots and Catholic faith balanced the ticket in some ways, but ideologically he was conservative like Goldwater. His relative obscurity—"he was better known for snipes at President Kennedy than for anything else"—gave birth to the refrain "Here's a riddle, it's a killer / Who the hell is William Miller?"[10]

In the general election, incumbent Lyndon Johnson won a landslide victory. The Goldwater/Miller ticket carried only six states - Goldwater's home state of Arizona, plus Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. Despite the defeat, the ticket's inroads into the previously Solid South were seen as an indication that the Southern Strategy was viable, and Republicans continued to pursue it in subsequent campaigns.

Later life[edit]

Following the defeat of the Goldwater-Miller ticket, Miller returned to his hometown of Lockport, where he resumed his law practice.[6] He also appeared in one of the first "Do you know me?" commercials for American Express.[11] Mark Z. Barabak suggests that by the time he died, Miller was "better known for his advertising appearance than his years in Congress."[12]

Death and burial[edit]

Miller died in Buffalo, New York on June 24, 1983.[6] He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[6]


He and his wife, Stephanie (Wagner), had three daughters and one son.[6] His youngest daughter, Stephanie Miller, was a stand-up comedian in the 1980s, CNBC and late night TV host in the 1990s and is now a nationally syndicated liberal radio talk show host based on the West Coast.[6] His son, William E. Miller Jr., ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the House of Representatives in 1992 and 1994 to represent New York's 29th district.[13]

Electoral history[edit]

New York's 42nd district, 1950[14]

  • William E. Miller (R) – 75,377 (58.57%)
  • Mary Louise Nice (D) – 53,310 (41.43%)

New York's 40th district, 1952[15]

  • William E. Miller (R) – 102,565 (59.64%)
  • E. Dent Lackey (D) – 69,087 (40.17%)
  • John Touralchuk (American Labor) – 329 (0.19%)

New York's 40th district, 1954[16]

  • William E. Miller (R) (inc.) – 77,016 (60.92%)
  • Mariano A. Lucca (D) – 46,956 (37.14%)
  • Louis Longo (Liberal) – 2,233 (1.77%)
  • Nick Curtis (American Labor) – 222 (0.18%)

New York's 40th district, 1956[17]

  • William E. Miller (R) (inc.) – 117,051 (64.34%)
  • A. Thorne Hills (D) – 64,872 (35.66%)

New York's 40th district, 1958[18]

  • William E. Miller (R) (inc.) – 90,066 (60.80%)
  • Mariano A. Lucca (D) – 54,728 (36.94%)
  • Hel J. Di Pota (Liberal) – 3,354 (2.26%)

New York's 40th district, 1960[19]

  • William E. Miller (R) (inc.) – 104,752 (53.62%)
  • Mariano A. Lucca (D) – 85,005 (43.51%)
  • Albert J. Taylor (Liberal) – 5,621 (2.88%)

New York's 40th district, 1962[20]

  • William E. Miller (R) (inc.) – 72,706 (52.04%)
  • E. Dent Lackey (D) – 67,004 (47.96%)

1964 United States presidential election

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Libby. "William E. Miller: The Man Who Wanted To Be Vice President". Notre Dame Magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  2. ^ "Fighter for His Party; William Edward Miller". The New York Times. January 22, 1960.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Person Details for William Edward Miller in household of Edward J Miller, "United States Census, 1920" — FamilySearch.org". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f U.S. House of Representatives (2006). A History of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1813-2006. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 540.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McGill, Douglas C. "Ex-Rep. William Miller, 69, Dies; Goldwater's 1964 Running Mate". The New York Times. New York, NY. p. 14. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  7. ^ "HR 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957". GovTrack.us.
  8. ^ "HR 8601. PASSAGE".
  9. ^ "H.R. 7152. PASSAGE".
  10. ^ Perlstein, Rick (2002). Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. p. 389.
  11. ^ Guess Who?, Time (Feb. 17, 1975)
  12. ^ Barabak, Mark Z. (20 June 2016). "Ticket to the White House or political oblivion? The challenge for Donald Trump as he seeks a running mate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  13. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Miller, U to Z". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 42 Race - Nov 07, 1950". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 04, 1952". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 02, 1954". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 06, 1956". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 04, 1958". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 08, 1960". Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 40 Race - Nov 06, 1962". Retrieved 4 May 2016.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
William L. Pfeiffer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 42nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John R. Pillion
Preceded by
Kenneth Keating
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 40th congressional district

Succeeded by
Henry P. Smith III
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thruston Morton
Chair of the Republican National Committee
Succeeded by
Dean Burch
Preceded by
Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Spiro Agnew