The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Miller, Frank Andrea
(March 28, 1925–February 17, 1983)

–editorial cartoonist for the Des Moines Register (1953-1983)—was born in Kansas City. He studied at the University of Kansas and the Kansas City Art Institute. During World War II, he served with the Third Army in Europe. After returning home, Miller followed in his father's footsteps as a staff artist at the Kansas City Star.

    In 1951 Des Moines Register editor Kenneth MacDonald offered Miller the position of cartoonist. Miller's former teacher Karl Mattern, a Grant Wood contemporary, had recommended him for the job. Miller was unable to accept for nearly 18 months because he was recalled for active duty with the Seventh Division (artillery) in the Korean War.

    Miller met his wife, Catherine, while they were both attending the Kansas City Art Institute. She worked as a fashion illustrator for Harzfeld's department store while Miller served in the Korean War. The couple had two daughters, Melissa and Melinda.

    Eventually, the Millers moved to Des Moines, where he joined the staff of the Des Moines Register. Over the next 30 years he drew more than 10,000 cartoons. His caricatures and cartoons commented not only on national and international politics but also with wit and humor on the human condition. At the time of his death at the age of 57, his cartoons were syndicated in nearly 50 newspapers throughout the country.

    In 1963 Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning. The judges said his work was "exemplified by a cartoon showing a destroyed world with one ragged figure calling to another: "˜I said–We sure settled that dispute, didn't we?'"

    Miller received other honors, including the National Headline Award in 1957 and the Freedom Foundation Award six times between 1955 and 1964. He received the Courage in Journalism Award of the Des Moines chapter of Sigma Delta Chi in 1961 "for placing people, foibles and the times in their proper perspective by deflating stuffed shirts and debunking sacred cows wherever he finds them."

    In addition to producing cartoons, Miller was an accomplished watercolorist. His work was noted for landscapes that featured rural towns, vintage buildings, and picturesque farmyards.

    Today, collectors of Miller's work are astonished to learn that in the mid 1970s, when the Millers sold their house and moved into a condominium, they reportedly sold stacks of his original drawings at a garage sale for 25 cents apiece.

    Miller, who was plagued by a chronic alcohol problem, kept it a secret from the public and most of his colleagues until late in his life. After participating in a treatment program, he worked tirelessly to help others afflicted with the disease.

    Miller died at age 57 at the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines. He should not be confused with comic book writer and artist Frank Miller (b. 1957) or comic-strip cartoonist Frank Miller (1898-1949).
Sources Frank Miller's papers are held in Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. For a book showing his cartoons see, Frank Miller: Cartoons as Commentary: Three Decades at the Register (1983). James Flansburg penned a deeply personal tribute to Miller for the Des Moines Register, 2/20/1983.
Contributor: Patrice K. Beam