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Celebrating 17 years: Floyd Miller looks back on his and the West Texas Tribune’s pasts as he forges new paths in community journalism

By Carla McKeown

 

 

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For just about all of his life, Floyd Miller has been on the leading edge of history. In 1966-67, his senior class was the first integrated class at Hallettsville High School in the Central Texas county of Lavaca. When he came to Abilene in 1971, he was the first Black salesperson hired by Elanco Products Company, a division of Eli Lilly, in their Agricultural Chemical Sales Division. And, now, he’s making history again as the publisher of the first nonprofit community newspaper in Abilene, Texas.

After publishing the West Texas Tribune for 17 years, this issue is its first as a nonprofit newspaper. (Click here to read more about the conversion here.)

Just as he did when he first decided to start the West Texas Tribune, Miller consulted with his wife, Marilyn, before making the decision.

Seventeen years ago when he first decided to launch a community newspaper in Abilene, Marilyn told him, “You don’t know anything about newspapers.” Miller admits that, indeed, he didn’t know much about newspapers in the beginning, but he learned.

Likewise, when he first got the idea to switch the West Texas Tribune to a nonprofit, he didn’t know much about nonprofit newspapers, but over the past several months, he’s learned.

When Miller tells that story, he smiles and says, “My wife goes along with a lot of things I do.”

In looking back at his decision to start a community newspaper and, more recently, to make it a nonprofit, Miller says the reason for doing it remains the same.

“For a time like this, I just think that it is so important to get information out that is true, solid, reliable,” he said.

Launching a newspaper isn’t the only business decision the Millers made together. It was also a joint decision they made almost 40 years ago when he quit his job with Elanco and went into the financial services business. The sales job required that he travel quite a bit, and as they started a family, the young couple wanted him to be closer to home. They have three children, Ellis, Amber and Sienna, and they all help with the West Texas Tribune whenever they can.

When he left the world of ag chemical sales, Miller didn’t know much about the investment business, but he got the training and licensing he needed to start Floyd Miller Investments.

In addition to relying on the advice and help of his wife, Miller credits a lot of his life success to his parents. He was born in Hallettsville, the oldest of nine children. He grew up on the family farm and attended Stevens Mayo High School until it closed in 1966 because of integration. Then, he graduated from Hallettsville High School.

After that, Miller enrolled in Prairie View A&M College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science in 1971. While attending Prairie View, he was a member of the Future Farmers of America and the Alpha Tau Alpha honor society.

He met the former Marilyn Frazier in Abilene, where she had moved to attend Abilene Christian University. She’s originally from Chatanooga, Tennessee, and came to Texas to go to college. They’ve been married almost 50 years now.

Miller’s love of his family is evident to anyone visiting his office in the First Financial Bank building on South 14th Street. Half the walls are covered with photos of his family and his wife’s artwork. The other half feature the many awards, diplomas, certificates and honors that Miller has received over the years.

He has served on many boards and commissions, including as minister of the North 10th and Treadaway Church of Christ, President of the Board of Hospice of the Big Country, President of the Board of Taylor County Extension Council, and as a member of the Mental Health Association Board, President and Board member of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce, Christian Service Center Board, an elder at the Baker Heights Church of Christ. He also served 10 years on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Abilene.

Currently, Miller volunteers for the following organizations: Greater Kiwanis Club of Abilene, as a member of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Development Corporation of Abilene.

In 2020, Floyd and Marilyn Miller became the first couple to receive the I-CAN Hero Award from the Interested Citizens of Abilene North (I-CAN) organization.

In January of this year, the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce named Miller the Ambassador of the Year at the organization’s MLK Banquet. The annual award honors someone who exemplifies volunteerism, acts on behalf of the community to inform, educate, and pursue the best for individuals and the community.

When presenting the award to Miller, Chamber board member Terrenia Fitts said, “This year we are presenting this award to someone who has and continues to demonstrate the highest level of commitment of continuing to support and fulfilling the mission of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce.”

Despite all of the accolades and plaques with his name on them, Miller doesn’t have any problem sharing the spotlight with those who have helped him through the years. Specifically, he mentions Joe Starkey, who wrote a front page story in that first issue and is still writing for this edition 17 years later. You can read a re-print of that first article on page B2. He also brings up Noemia Banks, who has advertised in the West Texas Tribune since the first issue. Several of those he has relied on over the years serve on his advisory board.

Although Miller has made some changes to the West Texas Tribune lately, they were made only after serious thought, prayer and consultation with those he respects and admires.
And, throughout the past 17 years, he has maintained the same goal: to highlight events and people throughout West Texas, creating a stronger community by helping ensure an informed community.

 

The front page of the first issue of the West Texas Tribune

Cutline, top photo: West Texas Tribune Publisher Floyd Miller runs Floyd Miller Investments and puts out the West Texas Tribune from his office on South 14th Street. He often juggles a cell phone and his desk phone while checking the email on his computer. (Photo by Tony Pilkington)

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