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Just before passing, local author sends a century's worth of archives to WV school

By WENDY HOLDREN | The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. | Published: November 25, 2017

 

Just hours before his passing, a Wyoming County native donated a century's worth of archives to West Virginia University.

Thurman Miller, who passed a couple weeks before his 98th birthday, had authored five books about his life and times, covering everything from roaming the hills outside Mullens as a boy, to his service with the Marine Corps during World War II, as well as his long career in the coal mines.

Throughout the years, he saved his notes and book drafts, correspondence, underground mine maps, several thousand digital photos and much more.

Miller even kept his father's 1923 yearly lease papers from Pocahontas Coal Company – $20 for hundreds of acres – and his late 1950s course books from Coyne Electrical School in Chicago. Also among his treasures are military souvenirs, mine machinery manuals and family genealogy records.

Miller's collection is now in the hands of the West Virginia and Regional History Center in Morgantown.

"It's rare to find such a trove of material," said John A. Cuthbert, director of the center. "We appreciate all the research and writing he's done about West Virginia and mining and his experiences in the war. This will definitely be a gift to future scholars, considering the remarkable century he's documented."

Miller's son, David Miller, said it means so much for his father's collection to be donated in a meaningful way.

"My father only had a high school education," David said. "He never had the opportunity to go to college, but he was self-taught in many, many areas."

David said even at the end of his father's life, he continued his educational journey – corresponding via email, maintaining a personal Facebook account, researching on Google, and of course, continuing his writing.

"He was very much an independent scholar. The recognition by a university that the work he'd done, the books he'd written and the photos he'd collected, that it would mean something to the next generation, it meant the world to him."

A detailed finding aid and sample photos and documents from the collection will be made available online.

Miller's writing has been widely recognized in regional and national newspapers. His work also earned him the Coal Heritage Research Award.

His most recent book, "Miner: A Life Underground," co-written by his son David, is a history of both his own four-decade mining career and the development of the state's coal mining industry from the 1940s through the 1970s.

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