If you haven’t heard yet, I’m sorry to share that last Friday, 1 May 2020, beloved #LauraIngallsWilder biographer and historian of South Dakota, small midwestern towns, and the social history of these and many related topics, passed away unexpectedly. I’ve debated for almost a week how I wanted to memorialize him. His biography, BECOMING LAURA INGALLS WILDER: The Woman Behind the Legend, is my favorite of the LIW biographies, and his essays on her life and work were insightful, honest, and enriching of the collective wisdom. Losing Dr. Miller means losing a legend of LauraLand, and I’m sure my sense of loss is shared by thousands.
This was a really nice piece from the Brookings Register (Brookings, South Dakota, where Dr. John Miller lived and worked for most of his life). Oddly, there was no mention of his LIW work.
I had the great good fortune to meet and socialize with him on several occasions over the last decade in my professional work, and he was always a font of information and intriguing stories that piqued my interest in numerous sidelines to my own research. He was a great supporter of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, and was our featured guest on many occasions at our academic conferences, including last July in Onalaska, Wisconsin. I’m currently the incumbent Co-Chair of the LIWLRA’s Conference, lovingly known as “LauraPalooza,” had planned on inviting Dr. Miller to attend our next (#LP22) conference as a matter of course. As a Public Historian, I feel honored to have had so many opportunities to learn from him both directly and from his numerous publications while simultaneously feeling a terrible loss, both in the niche of Laura Ingalls Wilder study and within the broader topics of South Dakota and midwestern history.