TABLE OF CONTENTS
Austin (Tex.) Mayor's Office. Tom Miller Records
An Inventory of the Collection
Robert Thomas (Tom) Miller was born on September 21, 1893, in Austin, Texas, to Thomas McCall and Annie Gillum Miller. He attended Austin High School and graduated from the Whitis School, going on to attend the University of Texas. After one year at the university, he entered his father's produce and cotton business. He married Nellie May Miller in 1917 and they had two children. When his father died in 1916, Tom and his brother James carried on the business, moving into a large warehouse at 301 West 4th Street in 1924.
Miller was elected to city council in April 1933 and four other councilmen chose him to serve as Mayor. He served until 1949 when he declined to run again, though he was elected again in 1955 and served as Mayor until 1961. He served a combined total of 22 years. He supported President Roosevelt's New Deal program which encouraged Federal Emergency Relief Administrative Projects in Austin. Under Miller, the city received funding for the first federal housing project in the United States. The Austin Symphony Orchestra and many city parks were constructed under New Deal projects.
Also during his time as Mayor, the city acquired 3,000 acres for Bergstrom Air Force Base; the Butler recreational tract (where the Municipal Auditorium was built); Hancock Golf Course; Deep Eddy; Municipal Golf Course; Disch Field; the acquisition of 350 acres for expansion of Mueller Airport; and the construction of a new Lake Austin dam (named for him). Miller died on April 30, 1962, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Handbook of Texas Online, Floylee Hunter Hemphill Goldberger, "MILLER, ROBERT THOMAS," accessed March 05, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmi21.
The collection consists of correspondence and working/subject files primarily from Miller’s time as mayor during the 1950s. Correspondence makes up the bulk of the collection. There is a small amount of correspondence dating from 1947 from Lyndon B. Johnson to Miller regarding the Missouri Pacific Railroad acquiring a portion of Bergstrom Field Spur as well as funding for Bergstrom Field housing projects. The majority of the collection is correspondence dating from 1955-1960. Much of the correspondence from constituents revolves around traffic, parking fees, zoning changes, leash ordinance for dogs, and planning of the Municipal Auditorium.
Of note are letters from African American civil rights activist Arthur DeWitty. In correspondence from March 14, 1956, DeWitty discusses a specific case of discrimination against African Americans by Austin police officers. He also tells Miller of two white supremacist groups organized with the intent of placing their men in police departments throughout the South in order “beat up and intimidate Negroes with or without cause. One such policeman has been found guilty and fired from the San Antonio Police Force.” In another 1956 letter, DeWitty outlines the Travis County Voters League initiatives for 1957 to hire African American bus drivers and parkettes, which other cities had successfully accomplished. Another letter noting racial discrimination was sent from a white child from Travis Heights Elementary School who describes the woman at the ticket booth of Barton Springs Pool being rude to the boy's African American friends, and not allowing them to swim there. Other correspondence came from various entities including the Railroad Commission of Texas, the U.S. Division of Defense and Disaster Relief, Austin Transit Corporation, and various municipal government associations and politicians in contact with Miller. Many citizens wrote Miller regarding a bill submitted to the Texas Legislature which would enable the city to lease property along the Colorado River to the Chamber of Commerce so a building could be erected for their headquarters. The site at issue was known as Lamar Park, near the bridge on South Congress, and many environmentalists were against the proposed development.
Another letter of interest is from July 1960, when the city was about to complete a new power plant and a low water dam. Councilman Oswald G. Wolf wrote Miller his suggestion of naming the power plant for Walter E. Seaholm and the dam in East Austin for “some 10th Ward boy who served the City to the best of his ability.” Miller sent correspondence back letting Wolf know he submitted his suggestions to the city council. There are also letters concerning the new downtown lake, known as Town Lake, and whether motor boats should be allowed as well as possible names for the lake.
Miller attended the Democratic National Convention and much of the correspondence from 1960 concerns Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Letters from L.B.J., Homer Thornberry and others in the Democratic Party concern the presidential election and Miller’s support.
A small collection of Subject/Working Files (less than 0.4 linear feet) further documents Miller’s mayoral work. Arranged by subject, the bulk of the files concern the Municipal Auditorium planning and opening. Other areas of interest include animal welfare, housing, and public utilities. A 1955 agreement between the City of Austin and the Humane Society of Austin and Travis County established that the Humane Society would be the "place of impoundment for all dogs seized in accordance with the provisions of the Austin Dog ordinance" in accordance with a list of conditions for the city. The materials on housing consist of two letters - one from the Housing Authority of the City of Austin concerning a 1950 contract between the city and the Housing Authority. Another document sent from the United States conference of Mayors addresses the national urban renewal and slum clearance legislation that was passed in 1960. The materials documenting utilities include rate comparisons of energy usage between residential and commerical properties, comparison of water usage between Austin and San Antonio, capital expenditures for sewer and water for 1956-1960, and Southern Union Gas Company rates and revenue. Of note in the oversized assorted materials is a Public Works Department blueprint for sewer, water, and gas lines at E. 7th Street and Pleasant Valley Road.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Austin (Tex.) Mayor's Office. Tom Miller Records (AR.F.010). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: unknown
Donation Date: unknown
Processing and finding aid by Kelly Hanus in March 2019.