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Model of Honesty Wraps Up Campaign

March 10, 1990

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A man who returned more than $50,000 after it fell from an armored car onto a busy highway said Friday his good deed has paid dividends.

″A lot of good tings have happened to me in the past couple years. ... But I’m the same person I always was,″ said Melvin Kiser. ″I think people like to look at the positive and expand on that, but I’m just average.″

Kiser was among honorees at a luncheon to mark the end of a 14-month campaign by the city’s Commission on Ethics and Values to make honesty a citywide policy.

Kiser gained national attention after he returned money that spilled on Interstate 71 near downtown Columbus in October 1987. He even portrayed himself in a television advertisement for Miller beer.

He said he returned the money out of his admiration for a famous good guy - movie star John Wayne.

″I was always a fan of John Wayne and still am,″ said Kiser, an Ohio Bell employee.

Kiser’s honesty was rewarded with more than fame. The armored car company gave him more than $5,000, and then there’s pay for the Miller ad.

Miller spokeswoman Beverly Jurkowski said Kiser didn’t ask to be paid, but had to be given a standard union rate for actors. She said he made between $5,000 and $10,000, but was unable to give the exact amount.

″He was a superb example of the Miller High Life campaign saluting people who do the right thing or make a decision in a difficult situation,″ Ms. Jurkowski said of Kiser.

In the commercial, Kiser is seen shooting pool in a bar with friends while telling them about the armored car incident. A man walks past him, and a $20 bill falls to Kiser’s feet. Kiser picks up the bill and asks, ″Why me?″

The city’s Commission on Ethics and Values was formed after the rear door of Metropolitan Armored Car Inc. truck swung open, dumping an estimated $1 million on a downtown freeway. Police estimate some 200 people converged on the highway, scooping up cash, while the truck continued north.

Several people returned money they found, but police said Kiser’s return of more than $50,000 represented the largest single amount. Police refused to say exactly how much money was lost or returned.

The city’s ″Take an Honest Look″ campaign was headed by Jeb Stuart Magruder, the former Watergate conspirator who is now a Presbyterian minister in suburban Marble Cliff.

Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a candidate for governor of Georgia, was the featured speaker at Friday’s luncheon.

At a news conference, Young said the honesty campaign was ″reaffirming and reminding us of those values that have really made this a great nation.″

Also honored at the luncheon were Sandy Pittman, of Columbus a bank employee who turned in a bag of unused state lottery tickets last July, and six local students whose essays on honesty were judged best in a citywide competition.

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