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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks in Austin, Texas, at the Unveiling of a Bust of Former Mayor Tom Miller.
Lyndon B. Johnson
210 - Remarks in Austin, Texas, at the Unveiling of a Bust of Former Mayor Tom Miller.
May 6, 1967
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1967: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1967: Book I

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Mayor and Mrs. Palmer, Judge and Mrs. Thornberry, Dr. and Mrs. Barclay, members of the Tom Miller family, and friends of Tom Miller in Austin:

I am so glad that you selected today as the occasion to unveil this bust of this good and great man.

The first half of my life I did not know Tom Miller, although he knew my family and the people from my area, because the first place that they visited when they came to Austin in the old days in the covered wagons was Tom Miller's Produce House. That is where they brought their goods to exchange for the money with which they would buy their provisions for the rest of the year.

Tom Miller was a big man with a big sense of humor. I know of no better way to illustrate it than a comment he made to me one time when I was trying to see that Austin did at least a little of its part in connection with the joint operation between the city and the Federal Government.

In his impatience, he said, "That's the trouble with you hill country people. You spend more time selling your product than you do raising it."

He was commenting on my ability to try to trade with him. I never really made a good trade--speaking from my standpoint--with Tom Miller. The trades were always shaded on behalf of the city.

One of the things that endeared me to this man was not just his big heart and his big mind and his big body, but his understanding of human beings and his fellow man and his thoughtfulness in connection with them.

I guess that he did more to make my mother happy in the years that she spent here than any other person. He never had even a businessman's luncheon except that he would invite my mother. He wouldn't send her a form letter; he would take the tickets out himself. He would tell her he had arranged for them at a certain place. He would see that somebody met her when she got there and that she was taken care of during the meeting.

The courtesy, respect, and thoughtfulness that he showed for my mother and my wife always gave him a great advantage with me.

When I was in New Guinea during the war, Mayor Miller and Mrs. Johnson were trying to bring Bergstrom 1 into existence. I heard him for the next 15 or 20 years talk about how much better a Congressman Mrs. Johnson was than the Congressman who preceded her!

1 Bergstrom Air Force Base, Austin, Texas.

Tom Miller was a lover of all of the citizens of this town--the little babies and the older citizens.

I remember what he did in the field of health. He caught me down in Virginia on one of my weekends of rest and urged me to go back to Washington immediately to send the Public Health polio experts to Austin, when Austin was threatened with a polio epidemic.

He spent hours and days on the improvement of our hospitals, whether it was Brackenridge, or Seton, or St. David's, or others. He was a man who was constantly interested in our schools.

I remember back in the PWA days--in the thirties--how he was pleading constantly for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for our grade schools and for our high schools.

He was one of the first men who talked to me, along with Beauford Jester, about the main building at the University of Texas, and all the other buildings that followed there, and then about the University taking over all the buildings that the Federal Government owned--if there was ever a surplus one--from the magnesium plants on. He loved the University, and he worked to make it a leading university in the Nation.

So health and education were not just his hobbies. They were his devoted concerns. He was a great believer in conservation.

This lake in front of us is a tribute to him. All the lakes up the river are a tribute to his sacrifice. I remember the days and nights that we spent in Washington building the Austin Dam. I don't think it would have been built except for Tom Miller, because there were many close questions involving it.

So in health, education, and conservation, he was a leader.

I came here one time and we talked about improving our housing for poor people. If Austin ever had a friend of the poor, it was Tom Miller. He was rich, he worked with the rich, he traded with the rich, he associated with the rich--but he spent all day long working for the poor, every day and until late at night.

Many times we have ridden down East Austin at midnight. He would tell me some of his plans, some of his programs, and some of his dreams.

He was the champion of the Negro's rights in this city when no other man would really take the leadership and speak up for them. I remember his bringing them into the Houston convention in 1928 and insisting that they be accorded privileges. I was a student at San Marcos at that time.

I remember his insistence that we build some public housing for the Negroes and for the Latin Americans--a large project over here. He had me come down from Washington. And we recruited enough opposition in 24 hours to fill the district courtroom here.

We passed the resolution through the city council and I started back to Washington. I got to Texarkana. They stopped the train there and somebody came in and said, "The Mayor is calling you with an emergency."

He said, "They have reversed me, three to two. Turn around and come back." So I got on the next train and came back.

We advertised for anybody that was opposed to the public housing to come to the district courtroom. I asked Ray Lee, then postmaster, to come up there and point out to me who these people were.

Well, when we got there, we had a crowd about three times bigger than we have here this afternoon. It looked like everybody in town had turned out, and we listened to protests all evening long.

About 10:30 or 11 o'clock, the Mayor said, "Now is the time to explain this thing very briefly. I am going to introduce you." Then said, "Mr. Perry is sitting over here on the right and Mr. Eilers is on the left. That will wind it up."

I said, "What is going to happen?" He said, "They are going to make the necessary motion." He said, "They have all gotten it off their chests. We will go right back where we were."

After all the protests had been heard, Mr. Eilers got up and said, "We are going to build this project for all of our people. I am going to move that we proceed with it."

Mr. Edgar Perry followed him and seconded the motion. The Mayor put the motion, and in rather typical Sam Rayburn style said: "All the ayes say aye, those that favor it. And all those oppose it, no." We never got to the noes. The ayes had it and the public housing projects were built here.

So in the fields of conservation and housing, in the fields of education and health, in the fields of all that concerned his people-this man gave all that he had.

Someone said that they didn't know which was bigger, the WPA grants that came into Austin or Tom Miller's telephone bills to Washington.

There were many, many days when he spent more than an hour talking to Washington. And then we spent many hours trying to carry out his requests.

Some of them were carried out--as you will see as you drive about this town. It is a great pleasure for Mrs. Johnson and Luci and me to be here with his friends today to pay our tribute to his memory and to thank all you good people who were so loyal to him through the years, and who are so loyal to his memory.

Note: The President spoke at 3:21 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium in Austin, Texas. In his opening words he referred to Lester Palmer, Mayor of Austin, and Mrs. Palmer, Judge Homer Thornberry of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and Mrs. Thornberry, and Reverend Dr. John Barclay, pastor of the Central Christian Church of Austin, and Mrs. Barclay. Later he referred to Beauford H. Jester, Governor of Texas 1947-1949, and to Edgar H. Perry and Col. A. J. Eilers, both of Austin.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks in Austin, Texas, at the Unveiling of a Bust of Former Mayor Tom Miller.," May 6, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28240.
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