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MILLER, HENRY POMEROY [ROY]

MILLER, HENRY POMEROY [ROY] (1884-1946). Henry Pomeroy “Roy” Miller, three-time mayor of Corpus Christi, owner/editor of the Corpus Christi Caller, president of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, and lobbyist for Gulf Sulphur Company and the port of Corpus Christi, was born at Blue Rapids, Kansas, on March 27, 1884, to David H. Miller and Chloe Pomeroy (Fisher) Miller. The family relocated to Houston, Texas, in 1894. 

At the age of ten, Miller was a newsboy on the streets of Houston and became a reporter for two years with the Houston Post. He graduated valedictorian of his Houston high school in 1900 and became a scholarship student at the University of Chicago and graduated in 1904. He worked briefly as a railroad journalist and publicist but soon migrated to a job as an advertising agent for the Sunset Central Railway. Miller was often described as vibrant, charismatic, meticulous, and industrious, which aided in the world of advertising. His strong intellect, capacity for hard work, and enthusiasm caught the eye of Robert Kleberg. He arrived in Corpus Christi in 1904 and became advertising and immigration agent for the Kleberg-owned St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company.

On January 22, 1906, Miller married Maude Heaney, daughter of Corpus Christi physician Alfred G. Heaney. They had three sons: Dale, Harry and Judd. From 1907 to 1911 he was secretary of the Corpus Christi Commercial Club, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1907 he also worked as editor of the Corpus Christi Daily Caller. In late 1911 he briefly served as a general sales agent for the King Ranch lands. 

Miller’s political intelligence, connections, and gregariousness positioned him to win his first political office in April 1911 as city commissioner. In April 1913 he was elected mayor running on a platform calling for city wide development and improvement. Popularly alluded to as Corpus’s “boy mayor,” he was twenty-nine years old upon taking office and was elected to three consecutive terms. As mayor he introduced a trolley line, improved sewage and water systems, beautified the eastern edge of the downtown bluff with a retaining wall and terracing, and inaugurated the first paved streets. Miller was instrumental in laying the foundation for the city’s future growth. His vision for the downtown bluff area set the tone for the city’s urban aspirations. Under his leadership, Corpus Christi organized and motorized its fire department, established a new city hall, built a new county courthouse (1914), and built a city wharf. As a Kleberg protégé, Miller was well connected with South Texas business and political leaders. He maintained close friendships with John Nance Garner, Robert Driscoll Jr., and Robert Kleberg, Sr. As a result, he inherited political rivals such as Archer Parr and Walter Elmer Pope. Political Rivalry cost him a fourth reelection as he was defeated by District Judge Gordon Boone. In 1918 Miller briefly returned to the Corpus Christi Caller as publisher and stayed until selling his interest by 1929. 

On September 14, 1919, a hurricane devastated Corpus Christi, including Miller’s home on North Beach. He joined an alliance of former political rivals to help the city with response and recovery efforts. He was named chairman of the Central Rescue and Relief Committee following the disaster. Miller determined that Corpus Christi would not only fully recover but improve its economic standing by creating a deepwater port. He successfully lobbied for a breakwater seawall, an extension of the city’s bayfront from the edge of Water Street, and the dredging of a forty-five-feet-deep channel to directly connect Corpus Christi to the Gulf of Mexico.  These accomplishments put the city on an equal economic footing with Galveston and Port Lavaca. Miller consistently advocated for an interconnected, intracoastal canal system from Louisiana to Brownsville. Subsequently, he became president of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (also known at that time as the Louisiana-Texas Intracoastal Canal Association) and vice president of the Trinity River Improvement Association. His duties repeatedly carried him to Austin and Washington, D.C., to lobby congressmen and committee chairmen for federal and state funds. On September 14, 1926, Miller’s economic vision came to fruition with the official opening of the Corpus Christi port and ship channel. 

While in Washington, Miller served as a lobbyist for the Gulf Sulphur Company and the Nueces County Navigational District. In the 1930s, as a lifetime Democrat, Miller became more and more involved in national Democratic Party issues. He managed the Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Nance Garner presidential campaign in 1932, and in the 1936 presidential election he served as financial chairman of the Democratic National Campaign in Texas. Additionally, Miller managed Richard M. Kleberg’s 1931 election campaign for U. S. Congress. He was responsible for the hiring of Lyndon Baines Johnson as Kleberg’s secretary. Miller took a leading role in securing the location of a Naval Air Training Station outside Corpus Christi in nearby Flour Bluff in 1940. For eighteen years he served as state president of the Navy League. 

Miller had intestinal surgery at St. David’s Hospital in Austin on December 24, 1945, but suffered complications. In April 1946 he was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for additional surgery. He died there on April 28, 1946. The city of Corpus Christi closed all its businesses for a half day, and Corpus Christi High School was renamed Roy Miller High School in his honor. The nearby town of Edroy was named after Miller and his business partner Ed Cubage. Roy Miller made the growth, development, and beautification of Corpus Christi his primary mission in life. He was one of Corpus Christi’s most visionary and public-spirited citizens of the early twentieth century. He is buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park in Corpus Christi.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Corpus Christi Caller-Times, April 29, 1946. Dallas Morning News, April 29, 30, 1946. Alan Lessoff, Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015). Mary Jo O’Rear, Storm Over the Bay: The People of Corpus Christi and Their Port (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009). 

Patrick Judd

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Handbook of Texas Online, Patrick Judd, "Miller, Henry Pomeroy [Roy]," accessed October 18, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmiwd.

Uploaded on November 11, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.