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Truman Biographer Dies

June 10, 1986

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) _ Merle Miller, the author of biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, died Tuesday at Danbury Hospital. He was 67.

Miller died of complications from having his appendix removed a week ago, said Carol Hanley, who worked with Miller the past eight years.

Funeral arrangements were not announced.

Miller, born May 17, 1919 in Montour, Iowa, was a correspondent for the Philadelphia Record in 1940. He was an editor at Yank magazine from 1941-45, contributing editor to Time magazine in 1945 and an editor at Harpers magazine from 1947-49.

A resident of Brewster, N.Y., he wrote several books, including: ″Plain Speaking, An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman,″ ″Lyndon, An Oral Biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson,″ ″We Dropped the A-Bomb,″ and ″On Being Different.″

″Plain Speaking,″ published in 1974 but compiled from interviews which Miller had done with Truman a decade earlier, was a best-seller but a controversial one because of Truman’s candid recollections.

The former president claimed, for instance, that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower wrote a letter to Gen. George C. Marshall saying he intended to divorce his wife Mamie. Truman said the letter had been lost.

In 1971, Miller wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine titled ″What It Means to be a Homosexual,″ which became the basis for ″On Being Different.″

He recalled the abuse he suffered as a child growing up in Iowa, and the teasing of his classmates: ″Sissy and all the other words - pansy, fairy, nance, fruit, fruitcake, and less printable epithets. I did not encounter the word faggot until I got to Manhattan. I’ll tell you this though. It’s not true, that saying about sticks and stones; it’s words that break your bones.″

It was an experience which made him sympathetic to Truman, who told stories of being harassed and bullied in school because of his thick glasses and his piano lessons.

″I had a short though valued acquaintance with Harry Truman,″ Miller wrote in 1982. ″I also admire him, despite the warts, despite the sometimes almost disastrous errors. He was an old-fashioned man. To describe him it is necessary to use a word not in most vocabularies today, at least in the sense I intend: He had character.″

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