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77.0 linear feet [70 record boxes, 3 oversize flat231 audiocassettes, 10 digital recorders, 17 CDs, 18 USB Flash Drives, 18 SD Cards, 1 DVD boxes],


John E. Miller was a professor of history at South Dakota State University, where he taught courses in recent American history, South Dakota history, and historical methods since 1974. He was the author of many books and articles on Midwestern politics, creativity, Laura Ingalls Wilder, small town culture and other American history topics. Material consists of course material, oral history interviews, talks, presentations, workshops, Laura Ingalls Wilder, writings, and research.

Historical Note

John E. Miller has been a faculty member in the History Department at South Dakota State University since 1973. He received a B.A. in history from the University of Missouri and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Miller is the author of many articles on South Dakota history in scholarly journals, as well as in popular publications such as South Dakota History and South Dakota Heritage. He is co-author of the article on South Dakota in World Book Encyclopedia, and author of several books, including Looking for History of Highway 14; South Dakota: A Journey Through Time; Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town: Where History and Literature Meet; and Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend. Professor Miller is the winner of numerous scholarly awards, including the South Dakota Board of Regents Research Award, 2000; and the Herbert Schell Governor's Award for History, in 2001.

Content Notes

Dr. John E. Miller was born March 28, 1945, in Beloit, Kansas to Channing and Mildred Miller. As the son of a Lutheran minister, he grew up in several towns in Kansas, Illinois, and Missouri. Dr. Miller received a B.A. in history from the University of Missouri -- Columbia (1966) and an M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1973) from the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. While pursuing his education, he also served as a court reporter in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and taught for the University of Maryland Overseas Program (1969-1970).

After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Miller spent a year as a visiting assistant professor of history at the University of Tulsa (1973-1974). In 1974, Dr. Miller accepted the position of assistant professor of history at South Dakota State University. He was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and full professor in 1984. He taught courses in historical methods, South Dakota history, and U.S. history focusing on the 20th-century. He retired in 2003, however, he remained on staff as an adjunct professor for a short time to teach the South Dakota history course. In October 2003, the South Dakota Board of Regents bestowed Dr. Miller with the title of Professor Emeritus of History. After retirement, he taught numerous Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI) courses.

Dr. Miller was a prolific historian; he authored, edited, and reviewed numerous books and articles, mainly on history, but also on politics, creativity, literature, and small-town life. His most noteworthy books included: Looking for History on Highway 14 (1993), Small Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America (2014), Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend (1998), and Democracy’s Troubles: Twelve Threats to the American Ideal and How We Can Overcome Them (2020). He also wrote South Dakota State University: A Pictorial History 1881-2006 for South Dakota State's 125th anniversary in 2006.

In addition, Dr. Miller also conducted hundreds of hours of oral history interviews with national and local individuals. He interviewed World War II veterans; South Dakota State University administrators, faculty, and staff; and residents of small towns in South Dakota, including Miller, Bruce, and Harrold. He also interviewed people such as George McGovern, Philip La Follette, Rollie Samp, Theodore Schultz, Frank Denholm, John Bibbey, and Frank Farrar. In addition, he directed the Department of History's Brookings Oral History Project in the 1970s.

He was involved with many professional organizations such as the South Dakota Humanities Council, the South Dakota State Historical Society, Phi Kappa Phi, the Midwestern History Association, and the Dakota History Conference. He also served on many church and community committees.

During his impressive career, Dr. Miller received several awards. These include the Burlington Northern Foundation Award for Excellence in Research (1988), the Mountain Plains Library Association Literary Contribution Award (1993), the South Dakota Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Research (2000), and the Herbert S. Schell Award for the most outstanding article in South Dakota History (2001). For his book, Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend, Dr. Miller won the WILLA Award in 1999 for the best scholarly non-fiction book on North American West women writers. He was also a finalist for the WILLA Award in 2009. In 2003, he was presented with the Robinson Award, the highest and most prestigious honor given by the South Dakota State Historical Society. In 2015, Dr. Miller was awarded the Frederick Jackson Tuner Award for a lifetime achievement in the field of Midwestern history by the Midwestern History Association.

John and Kathy Miller married in 1972 and raised two children, Ann and Tom. John Edward Miller died May 1, 2020, at his home in Brookings, South Dakota.

SDSU Archives and Special Collections

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


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