Bill Miles, an early Journalism graduate who went on to a career in reporting, publishing, consulting and two terms in the Mississippi Legislature, has donated his political papers to the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.
The gift was made official in an April 29 ceremony, featuring former House Speaker Billy McCoy of Rienzi and Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville as keynote speakers.
Dr. Ed Meek, for whom the Meek School is named, commented that Miles was ahead of him in classes. “Just watch Bill Miles and do what he does,” Meek quoted early professor and chairman Sam Talbert as saying. “I did, and I have been doing it since,” Meek said.
The event also showcased several vintage campaign commercials produced by the Bill Miles Associates firm for north Mississippi candidates.“We’re also opening the Bill Miles Collection to researchers,” said Leigh McWhite, political papers archivist and associate professor at UM. “Among the current holdings of the Modern Political Archives, the Miles Collection is quite unique.”
Contained within the collection are documents, photographs and recordings on the campaigns of several north Mississippi candidates as well as Miles’s own files from his 12 years in the Legislature. The collection also includes diaries that he kept while it was in session.
“I feel very humbled to be included in an illustrious group of individuals whose accomplishments have impacted Mississippi’s history,” Miles said. “By the luck of the draw, I was fortunate, in most instances, to be an observer and, sometimes, a participant in some unusual events.”
While Miles had considered the possibility of Ole Miss being the custodian of anything worthwhile for future researchers, it was not until he was contacted by key players in the 50th anniversary observance of James Meredith’s enrollment that he made a commitment.
“Dr. Ed Meek and Dr. Andy Mullins pressed me hard by flattering me that my stuff might be worthwhile,” Miles said. “Ole Miss has meant a lot in my own education, and for my children and grandchildren. When I was shown the extent of the archives – where it is housed and its documentation – I was very impressed. And the university is a place where scholars can use ordinary collections, such as mine, for extraordinary benefits for the future.”
After working briefly as a journalist, Miles formed the advertising/public relations firm Bristow-Miles Associates Inc. in 1963 in Tupelo. After later becoming Bill Miles Associates, the firm often represented local political candidates. In 1996, voters of Itawamba and Monroe counties sent Miles to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he remained for 12 years.
“The most meaningful period in my career probably was during my legislative service, where my friendship and relationship with Speaker Billy McCoy resulted in my appointment as chairman of transportation and as a key adviser to him during very turbulent times,” Miles said. “I certainly enjoyed the association I had with the late Congressman Jamie Whitten, as he attained his high rank in the U.S. Congress. As one back home in his First Congressional District on whom he might rely for counsel, I had the unusual perch on which I observed and sometimes helped him get programs and projects which benefited Mississippians.”
For more information about the Bill Miles Collection at the University of Mississippi, visit https://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/miles/.