Mike Miller's first job in journalism was not in the newsroom. It was in the "dispatch" department, where he eventually starting driving around William T. Evjue, who founded the Capital Times in 1917.
Miller, a native of Stoughton, was a favorite of Evjue, recalls Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of the paper. "Mike could speak Norwegian, which Evjue considered a real plus," says Zweifel.
Miller, who recently told friends and former colleagues that he had pancreatic cancer, will be honored Tuesday at the Dane County Courthouse. The eighth-floor pressroom will be named for Miller, who covered the courts -- and a few other beats -- for the Capital Times for four decades.
Former Dane County Judge Dan Moeser, who has known Miller since both were young boys in Stoughton, calls Miller "a true professional."
Moeser was one of the judges who presented Miller with a plaque at his retirement party three years ago at the Avenue Bar. As Zweifel noted in his column Monday, the plaque contains high praise for Miller: "You always did your homework, never broke a confidence and always strived to get it right," it read in part. "You, more than any other person, are responsible for the atmosphere of trust that exists between the judges and the media."
Moeser says accuracy was important to Miller. "You would often see him reading up on files long before the case went to trial."
Chief Judge Bill Foust says Miller became an informal court historian over the years. And he, too, noted Miller's diligence.
"He would spend hours in a branch office going through a file just to make sure that he knew all the background on it."
Moeser says one of Miller's gifts was the ability to translate complicated information for readers. "He was able to describe things that were often sad and funny or tragic or complex and let the public know what was happening in their court system."
Miller also became known for two popular recurring features in the Capital Times: annual April Fool's stories and previews of dinners featuring lutefisk, cod soaked in brine that includes lye. In one story, Miller referred to the Norwegian specialty as "delightfully prepared, aromatic cod."
Moeser says Miller has been missed around the courthouse: "Mike was the gold standard."