A scholarship in memory of one of the greats in newspaper journalism who taught at the University of Mississippi is growing and will soon assist a new generation of reporters and editors.
Thomas C. “Tommy” Miller, wasn’t a part of the Department of Journalism faculty long, but he made a lasting impact, said H. Will Norton Jr., now dean of UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media and former chair of the journalism department during Miller’s two teaching periods, 1981-1983 and 1984-1986.
Miller left to become deputy managing editor of the Houston Chronicle in Texas, then the 17th largest newspaper in America. He later served as managing editor and then, in 2003, accepted the Roger Tatarian Chair in Journalism at Fresno State University in California.
In 2011, Miller died at age 66 of a debilitating illness. The Tommy Miller Scholarships have since been established from memorial gifts, and the awards are designated for UM students pursuing reporting or editing careers.
“Through the years, when my children have asked me about my favorite color, movie or book, I’ve always had trouble committing to one,” a donor wrote. “But not when it came to my favorite teacher. Tommy Miller. No doubt.”
“Tommy Miller’s critical eye made me plan, edit and review both my work and my direction much more effectively,” another student recalled. “The accountability he demanded has benefited me greatly.”
“I know Tommy would have liked having another way to help journalism students,” wrote another, enclosing her check.
Miller was born in West Point, Miss., and grew up in Beaumont, Texas. He attended Hardin-Simmons University for two years and in 1967 earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Baylor University, where he was editor of The Lariat, the student newspaper. He earned a master’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley.
Miller married Darla Ferris, his childhood sweetheart, while both were at Baylor. Following graduation he went to work for the United Press International wire service in Dallas but was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served at Fort Ord in California and enrolled in graduate school after his enlistment was up. He then returned to UPI, working in Dallas, San Francisco and Sacramento.
Miller joined the Houston Chronicle in 1973 as a reporter and later became an assistant city editor. His Chronicle career was interrupted in 1981 when he returned to his native state to teach at Ole Miss. He left two years later to become managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise before returning to the classroom in 1984.
Rejoining the Chronicle in 1986, Miller held various managerial positions before being promoted to managing editor in 2000. That same year he was elected president of the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.
Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the Tommy Miller Scholarships can send checks with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; or online at www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.