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Miller, George L.

Dr. George L. Miller (1830-1920), founder of the Omaha Daily Herald, which later became part of the Omaha World-Herald, arrived in Omaha in 1854, the year Nebraska Territory was created. The New York native was graduated from medical school in New York City in 1852 and practiced in Syracuse for two years before coming West. He started a medical practice in Omaha, but soon left it for Democratic Party politics and journalism.

During his first year in Nebraska Miller was elected to the territorial legislature. He served one year in the house and then was elected to three terms in the council. He ran for territorial delegate to Congress in 1864 but was defeated. The next year he started the Democratic Omaha Daily Herald, which soon became the chief Democratic organ in the state. Eventually Miller built it into a nationally influential newspaper, serving as its editor for about twenty-three years before selling it in 1887.

Miller made many worthy contributions to Omaha and to the state of Nebraska. He helped recruit the First Nebraska Regiment prior to the Civil War and thereafter was sutler at Fort Kearny until 1864. He helped acquire for Omaha the transcontinental railroad and the Union Pacific bridge. He served on committees to promote the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha and was its president in 1899. He served as president of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1907 to 1909.

Miller was also a promoter of tree-planting and a booster of Nebraska agriculture. Along with George Holdrege, manager of the Burlington Railroad lines west of the Missouri, he was instrumental in successfully introducing winter wheat into Nebraska, and advocated a new method of sowing wheat.

Miller inspired both intense admiration and enmity during his days in Nebraska politics. He was attacked by Republican Edward Rosewater of the Omaha Bee, September 6, 1876, as a "jack-of-all trades and a master of none. . . . a medicine man, a hotel builder, an army sutler, a cotton speculator, a railroad jobber, an eating-house keeper, journalist, and a politician. . . [and] a dishonest, unscrupulous, and unprincipled money-grabber." Miller and J. Sterling Morton, the other prominent member of the Democratic Party in Nebraska, carried on a bitter personal feud during these years. Yet Morton recognized Miller's ability and said of him: "No other man, either by the power of money, or by the power of brawn, or by the strength of brain, did as much to make Omaha a city."

(February 2000)



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