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John Elvis Miller Papers

Identifier: MC 1358

Scope and Content Note

Papers and materials pertaining to John Elvis Miller. The collection contains correspondence, press clippings, speeches, and other materials highlighting certain periods of Miller life, especially 1937-1941, and from the late 1950s through his death in 1981. The collection's six scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings covering his 1937 senatorial campaign and his career as a U.S. Senator. The collection also includes fifty-eight images, including individual portraits, photographs of formal occasions, and family and recreational snapshots. Especially notable are the fifteen individual images of Miller, which include portraits from almost every stage of his career, from 1917 to the mid-1960s, as well as informal images of Miller in the 1970s.


  • 1917-1981


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

Restrictions apply. Original vinyl record albums are unavailable. Cassette recordings have been made for research use.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

John Elvis Miller (1888-1981), attorney, congressman, U.S. senator, and federal judge, was born near Aid, Missouri, the son of John A. and Mary K. Miller. After receiving his L.L.B. at the University of Kentucky in 1912, he moved to Searcy, Arkansas, and began practicing law. In 1913 he was elected Searcy's city attorney, and in October, 1914, he married Ethel Lucile Lindsey. Together they had two children, Mary Louise and John E. His first wife died in April, 1955, and in December, 1956, he married Ethel Skinner of Fort Smith.

In 1919-1922 Miller served as prosecuting attorney of the First Judicial Circuit of Arkansas; one of his first tasks in this office was the prosecution of African Americans charged in the Elaine Riot cases. A Democrat, he was elected representative from Arkansas's Second Congressional District in 1930, and would continue to serve in that capacity until 1937, when he became a reluctant candidate for U.S. senator. Miller received the opportunity to become senator upon the death of Senator Joseph T. Robinson in July, 1937. Then Arkansas governor Carl E. Bailey, an ardent supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, secured the state Democratic party's nomination through action of the state central committee, which selected Bailey to succeed Robinson but declined to hold a special primary to affirm Bailey's nomination. After several other Arkansas congressmen declined, including John L. McClellan, opponents of Bailey persuaded Miller to run for the senatorial position. Campaigning on a platform denouncing the high-handed manner in which Bailey received his nomination, Miller defeated his opponent in October, 1937, garnering the support of sixty-two of Arkansas's seventy-five counties. Miller served as senator until April, 1941, when President Roosevelt appointed him to the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. As judge for that district Miller received notoriety for his decision in 1956 favoring the gradual integration of Little Rock's public schools; the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Miller's decision. In 1967 he was made a senior U.S. district judge. Declining health stopped him from hearing court cases after 1976, although he remained active in the judiciary as a consultant. He finally resigned his position as federal judge in 1979. Miller died on January 30, 1981.

Additional information on Miller is available in the Special Collections Vertical File (folder labeled "Miller, John E.") and the Judge John E. Miller Collection housed in the Old Fort Museum in Fort Smith.


6.5 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Acquisition Information

Papers and materials pertaining to John Elvis Miller were donated to Special Collections by Robert L. Skinner of Fort Smith, Arkansas, on August 23, 1996. Funds for processing the Miller Papers were donated by Judge Miller's former law clerks, including the Honorable Bradley D. Jesson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, Edgar E. Bethell, Granville T. Harper, Charles R. Ledbetter, Claibourne W. Patty, James E. West, and G. Alan Wooten.

Related Materials

Records relating to the John Elvis Miller Papers include:

John Elvis Miller (1888-1981) Oral History Interview MC 279 1976

Processing Information

Processed by Todd Everett Lewis, Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas, February 1997.



John Elvis Miller Papers
Todd Everett Lewis
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444