Merle Miller
Merle Miller was an American novelist best known for his biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Three years before his best-selling book Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman (1974), he wrote a personal account '"What It Means to Be a Homosexual" published in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

January 17, 1971.

Life and career

Merle Miller was born in Montour, Iowa
Montour, Iowa
Montour is a city in Tama County, Iowa, United States. The population was 285 at the 2000 census.-History:Montour was founded near the villages of Indian Village and Butlerville on the east side of Indian Creek upon the elevated bench on the south side of the Iowa River around 1864. Dr...

; he grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa
Marshalltown, Iowa
Marshalltown is a city in and the county seat of Marshall County, Iowa, United States. The population was 27,552 in the 2010 census, an increase from the 26,009 population in the 2000 census. -History:...

 and attended the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

 and the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Miller served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an editor of Yank. After the war he worked Time and Harper's magazines (1945–1949). His first novel was That Winter ( 1948). His other books are The Sure Thing (1949); Reunion (1954); A Gay and Melancholy Sound (1961); Only You, Dick Daring! (1964); The Warm Feeling (1968); What Happened (1972); A Secret Understanding (1961); On Being Different (1971); and Lyndon: An Oral Biography (1980).

In Only You, Dick Daring!, his scathing account of trying to make a show with CBS for the 1963-1964 television season, Merle Miller talks of how James T. Aubrey, Jr., the president of the CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 Television Network, would simply walk out of meetings without offering any substantive comments, good or bad. Miller was assured by other CBS executives that meant things were fine, but Miller learned later of efforts to force him out. A pilot for the show, Calhoun, to star Jackie Cooper
Jackie Cooper
Jackie Cooper was an American actor, television director, producer and executive. He was a child actor who managed to make the transition to an adult career. Cooper was the first child actor to receive an Academy Award nomination...

 and Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra...

, was shot and put on the fall schedule, but never aired.

In 1968, Miller signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

Miller died in 1986 in Danbury, Connecticut
Danbury, Connecticut
Danbury is a city in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. It had population at the 2010 census of 80,893. Danbury is the fourth largest city in Fairfield County and is the seventh largest city in Connecticut....

 from complications following abdominal surgery.

Controversy over Plain Speaking

In 1995 Miller's most famous book, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman, became the focus of an intense controversy. That year Dr. Robert Ferrell, an historian who had published his own biography of Truman, asserted that Miller had fabricated many of the quotes in his book. In 1962, Miller had done a series of filmed interviews with former President Truman; his hope was to sell the interviews to a television network. When no network bought the rights, Miller printed the interviews in 1974 and turned them into the bestselling and influential Plain Speaking. In the book, Truman came across as a salty, colorful, and tart-tongued politician who said many "politically-incorrect" things. In Plain Speaking, Miller quoted Truman as referring to General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 as a "dumb-son-of-a-bitch" and quoted Truman as asserting that Dwight Eisenhower, his successor in the Oval Office
Oval Office
The Oval Office, located in the West Wing of the White House, is the official office of the President of the United States.The room features three large south-facing windows behind the president's desk, and a fireplace at the north end...

, tried to divorce his wife Mamie
Mamie Eisenhower
Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower was the wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and First Lady of the United States from 1953 to 1961.-Early life:...

 in order to marry Kay Summersby
Kay Summersby
Kay Summersby was a member of the British Mechanised Transport Corps during World War II, who served as chauffeur to Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force Dwight D. Eisenhower, later as his secretary and, it is alleged, his mistress.-Biography:Summersby was born Kathleen Helen...

, his English chauffeur and secretary during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In Miller's recounting, Truman claimed that General George C. Marshall wrote Eisenhower a letter threatening to ruin his career if he divorced his wife. According to Dr. Ferrell, however, Truman never actually said any of this, and he accused Miller of simply making up Truman's quotes to make his book more interesting and lively. Ferrell claimed that Miller's papers on file in the Truman presidential library include no references to a number of Truman's quotes in Plain Speaking, and in his opinion the quotes are most likely forgeries created by Miller, and are not real Truman quotes or statements. Ferrell also mentioned a letter written by Truman to Miller complaining about the "misstatements" contained in Miller's written account of their interviews, and threatening a lawsuit if Miller published his interviews with Truman. As Ferrell noted, Miller waited until nearly two years after Truman's death to publish Plain Speaking.

External links

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