William Read Miller

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William Read Miller
12th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 11, 1877 – January 11, 1881
Preceded byAugustus Hill Garland
Succeeded byThomas James Churchill
39th and 42nd Arkansas State Auditor
In office
GovernorElias Nelson Conway
Preceded byA.S. Huey
Succeeded byH.C. Lowe
In office
GovernorHenry Massey Rector
Thomas Fletcher
Harris Flanagin
Preceded byH.C. Lowe
Succeeded byJames R. Berry
In office
GovernorIsaac Murphy
Preceded byJames R. Berry
Succeeded byJames R. Berry
In office
GovernorAugustus Hill Garland
Preceded byStephen Wheeler
Succeeded byJohn Crawford
In office
GovernorSimon Pollard Hughes Jr.
Preceded byA.W. Files
Succeeded byW.S. Dunlop
Personal details
Born(1823-11-23)November 23, 1823
Batesville, Arkansaw Territory, U.S.
DiedNovember 29, 1887(1887-11-29) (aged 64)
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
Resting placeMount Holly Cemetery,
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
34°44′15.3″N 92°16′42.5″W / 34.737583°N 92.278472°W / 34.737583; -92.278472
Political partyDemocratic
Susan Elizabeth Bevens
(m. 1849)
ProfessionLawyer, politician

William Read Miller (November 23, 1823 – November 29, 1887) was the 12th Governor of Arkansas. Born in Batesville, Arkansaw Territory; Miller was Arkansas's first native born Governor. Serving two terms in the turbulent period after Reconstruction, Miller's four-year administration marked the beginnings of New Departure Democrats in Arkansas. Running on a platform of economic growth via reconciliation between whites and freedmen, Miller often was opposed by members of his own party during the infancy of the Lost Cause ideology. His plans to pay back a large state debt including the Holford Bonds, valued at $14 million ($413.7 million today), were often interrupted by racial violence, and his support for public schools and universities was often combated by those in his own party.

Miller desired an unprecedented third gubernatorial term in 1881, but the Democrats instead nominated Thomas Churchill, a Democratic hard-liner and former Major General in the Confederate States Army. Following his defeat, Miller served on boards of several railroads and as a trustee of the University of Arkansas. Miller also served as Arkansas State Auditor for twelve of the thirty years between 1857 and his death in 1887, making him the third-longest tenured Auditor in Arkansas history.

Early life[edit]

Miller was born on November 23, 1823 on a farm near Batesville, Arkansaw Territory, to John and Clara Moore Miller. Miller's father was a farmer and register of the U.S. Land Office active in Democratic politics, including serving as a presidential elector twice.[1] At the age of thirteen, Miller is said to have publicly challenged notable local and fervent Whig Fent Noland regarding Martin Van Buren's credentials. He also saw the Arkansas Territory achieve statehood on June 15, 1836. Miller was educated in local schools when the workload on the family farm allowed, and he showed an early interest in law. Although discouraged from pursuing the legal profession by his father, Miller moved from the family farm to Batesville to read law after turning twenty-one in 1844.

Miller's political career blossomed upon moving to Batesville, which was the fourth-largest city and one of the most politically prominent cities in Arkansas at the time.[Note 1] He was elected Independence County Clerk in 1848, and married Susan Elizabeth Bevens, the daughter of Third District Judge William Bevins, the following year.[3] Governor Elias Conway of the prominent Conway Family appointed Miller to become State Auditor when C.C. Danley resigned the post in 1854, causing Miller to resign as Independence County Clerk and accept the statewide office.[4] Conway himself had served as State Auditor from 1835–1849, and the post raised Miller's political profile significantly.

Political career[edit]

Auditor (1854-1860, 1862-1864, 1874-1876)[edit]

Miller was reelected to that position in 1858, 1860, 1862, and again in 1874 after Reconstruction ended. Miller studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1868.

Governor (1876-1880)[edit]

Miller was elected Governor of Arkansas in 1876, and was reelected in 1878. Miller was the first native born Arkansas governor.[5] The Miller administration focused on public education and the state's financial problems. He signed legislation that funded the State Blind Asylum and the Arkansas Industrial University.

After leaving office Miller served as the Deputy Treasurer of Arkansas in 1881 and 1882.

Auditor (1887)[edit]

In 1886, he was again elected to the position of State Auditor.

Personal life[edit]

Miller was married to Sarah Susan Bevers and they had seven children.


Miller is buried at the historic Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.



  1. ^ "Governors" (2005), p. 69.
  2. ^ "Population of such Cities, Towns, Townships, Hundreds, &c., in the United States" (PDF). 1850 United States Census. United States Census Bureau. p. 3. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  3. ^ "Governors" (2005), p. 70.
  4. ^ "Governors" (2005), p. 69.
  5. ^ "William Read Miller (1877-1881)". Ohio State House Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

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