Saying Goodbye to a LauraLand Legend…Dr. John E. Miller

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.

A stack of my copies of books authored by the late Dr. John E. Miller, SDSU Professor Emeritus of History, d. 1 May 2020. Note I have two copies of LIW’s Little Town. Dr. Miller and I met and “talked shop” on numerous occasions, and over the years I asked him to autograph various books. The bottom four in this stack bear his autograph. When he signed the HISTORY OF SOUTH DAKOTA, he asked, “Why did you buy THIS book?” I told him that I wanted a reliable state history for my Meet LIW presentations, and his name on the jacket was all I needed to know that it was going to be a solid choice! I hope that made him happy to hear.
Photo copyright Melanie Stringer/Dakota Yankee Research, 2020.

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.

https://brookingsregister.com/…/sd-historian-miller-passes-…

BROOKINGS – On April 30, longtime Brookings resident and South Dakota State University historian John Miller got up early and headed to EdgeBrook Golf Course.

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