Remembering Tony Miller
Anthony O. Miller, a Sonoma County journalist in the 1970s and 1980s who went on to prominence as an editor and foreign correspondent for UPI, AP, Reuters and other news services, died in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on Nov. 22. He was 68 years old.
Miller was a comrade and a friend and one of the most passionate, prolific, compassionate and conscientious professionals I have known in the business of gathering news and reporting it to the world.
He came to Sonoma County as a war-wracked and wounded Vietnam veteran, who had later sought redemption as a street-smart social worker in Baltimore and Los Angeles. His Irish charm and fearless nature earned respect from the tough and the needy in the ghetto communities where he worked and where his intervention improved countless lives. He even saved a few when he ran twice into a burning Baltimore tenement house and rousted the residents.
He came to the business of news through the legendary training ground of Geets Buroker Vincent’s SRJC journalism class, and undertook a kind of informal apprenticeship at the Santa Rosa News-Herald, when I was co-publisher and editor.
Together we covered, and broke nationally, the story of Al Cusino, a clever grifter who conned hundreds of thousands of dollars from prominent investors with a fraudulent exhaust by-pass device he claimed would revolutionize the auto industry by virtually eliminating exhaust gasses while radically extending mileage. Cusino also claimed to have invented a “black box” energy multiplier that defied the laws of physics, and the investors who bought into these Ponzi schemes included Sonoma Valley residents and the pastor of Santa Rosa’s largest church, the Christian Life Center. Those investments helped drive the church into bankruptcy. It is now the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.
Miller also did principal research for “The Cult That Died,” a definitive book on Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. He was a tireless investigator, a meticulous researcher and a brilliant writer whose gifts outgrew the local news crib he grew up in professionally.
In time, Miller was hired by the San Francisco UPI bureau and ultimately landed on the international desk in Washington, D.C., where his editing covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Miller covered the first Gulf War in 1991 and was one of the first, if not the first western reporter to enter Kuwait with U.S. forces.
After a decade with UPI, he worked for AP in Cyprus and for Reuters in Hong Kong, following a brief, failed effort to accommodate his Chinese censors at China Daily in Beijing.
His last international assignment was with the English language edition of Ha’aretz in Tel Aviv.
Miller retired to Cuernavaca, where he lived simply and joyously, taught history in local schools to students enthralled by his energy, his humor and his passion for learning, and ultimately contracted prostate cancer. He was a gifted pianist and guitar player (see Other Voices, below), a great raconteur and a journalist of such impeccable principles that he refused to vote for presidents lest the act influence his coverage.
Tony Miller was an irreplaceable gift to the world of journalism and I will miss him deeply.