Benjamin M. Miller

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Benjamin Meek Miller
Benjamin Meek Miller (Alabama Governor).jpg
Wilcox Progressive Era (Camden, AL), May 6, 1920
39th Governor of Alabama
In office
January 19, 1931 January 14, 1935
Lieutenant Hugh D. Merrill
Preceded by Bibb Graves
Succeeded by Bibb Graves
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1864-03-13)March 13, 1864
Oak Hill, Alabama
DiedFebruary 6, 1944(1944-02-06) (aged 79)
Selma, Alabama
Resting placeCamden Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Margaret Otis Duggan Miller
Alma mater University of Alabama
Profession Attorney, judge

Benjamin Meek Miller (March 13, 1864 – February 6, 1944) was an American Democratic politician who served as the 39th Governor of Alabama from 1931 to 1935. The Scottsboro Boys affair notably took place during his gubernatorial tenure.


Early life

Miller was born in Oak Hill, Wilcox County, Alabama, on March 13, 1864, to Rev. John Miller, D.D., and Sarah Pressly Miller. His father was pastor of the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church at Oak Hill for 31 years. His mother was a descendant of the Hearst family of Abbeville County, South Carolina. He received his early education in Oak Hill and Camden, Alabama. He entered Erskine College from which he graduated in 1884. While a student at Erskine, he was a member of the Euphemian Literary Society. Upon his graduation from Erskine, he returned to Wilcox County where he served as principal of the Lower Peach Tree Academy until 1887. He graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1889. After graduating from law school, he established a practice of law in Camden. On September 21, 1892, he married Margaret Otis Duggan of Mobile, Alabama. In 1890, he was a founding member of the Camden Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Political life

B. M. Miller's law office, Camden, Alabama, circa 1937 Milleroffice1.jpg
B. M. Miller's law office, Camden, Alabama, circa 1937

Miller represented Wilcox County in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1888 to 1889. He was elected judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Alabama in 1904 and served in that capacity until 1921. Miller was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama from 1921 to 1927. He sought reelection to the Supreme Court of Alabama in 1926, but was defeated by a candidate supported by the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1930, Miller sought the governorship of Alabama. The Democratic primary pitted Miller against W.C. Davis (his strongest opponent), Woolsey Finnell, Watt T. Brown, J.A. Carney and Charles C. McCall. During the campaign Miller attacked the reforms of the Bibb Graves administration and the political power of the Ku Klux Klan. Miller's election as governor was therefore a blow to the Klan.

When Miller was inaugurated as governor on January 19, 1931, the State of Alabama was $20,000,000.00 in debt. Miller considered the reduction of the State's debt the primary objective of his administration. After twice calling the Alabama Legislature into special session, Miller was able to secure an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama permitting the collection of state income tax. A state inheritance tax was passed along with budget control act which prohibited the State of Alabama from spending beyond incoming revenues. The salaries of state employees were also drastically reduced. Miller did not consider the income tax or budget control act his greatest achievement; instead he considered the state bank holiday he declared in March 1933, eight days before Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a national bank holiday his greatest achievement.

In 1932, Miller commissioned Brookings Institution to conduct a study of Alabama's state and local governments in order to achieve a more efficient government. Most of the study's findings, however, were not adopted by the Alabama Legislature. During Miller's administration, the miles of paved roads in Alabama doubled, and all highway work was paid in cash.

Miller was known for his frugality, and he shocked many in Montgomery when brought his personal milk cow from Camden to the Governor's Mansion.

After leaving the governor's office in 1935, Miller returned to Camden where he resumed the practice of law. He died at his daughter's residence in Selma, Alabama, on February 6, 1944, and is buried in the Camden Cemetery, in Camden, Alabama. Margaret Duggan Miller preceded her husband in death on February 16, 1934, and is also buried in the Camden Cemetery.

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Party political offices
Preceded by
Bibb Graves
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Bibb Graves
Political offices
Preceded by
Bibb Graves
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Bibb Graves