The presidential election of 1964 hit pretty close to home with hometown boy, Bill Miller, making good and filling out the vice-presidential spot on the Barry Goldwater-William Miller Republican ticket. Goldwater, the Arizona senator, chose running mate Lockport attorney and Congressman, Bill Miller, in part because of his effect on the Democratic contender, President Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater acknowledged that Miller could “drive Johnson nuts,” alluding to Miller’s sharp sarcasm and wit. Bill Miller had served Niagara well as county District Attorney, prosecutor in the Nuremberg trails of Nazi war criminals, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republican Committee National Chairman from 1961 to 1964.
To kick off the duo’s New York campaign, Miller chose to hold a political rally at the Niagara County Fairgrounds on September 5, 1964. The candidates received a fantastic reception at the event and spoke open air to a crowd of several thousand well wishers. Goldwater later remarked that the rally was “one of the most wonderful tributes to a man (Miller) I have ever seen. They really gave the hometown boy everything they had.”
Goldwater and Miller campaigned on an anti-communism platform and a call for “hands-off” government that paved the way for modern right wing Republican thinking and the White House domination of Ronald Regan and others to follow. Despite a well-fought campaign, Goldwater/Miller lost the election in a landslide vote, with Lyndon Johnson capturing 61% of the popular vote. Goldwater carried the electoral votes of only six states. Following his defeat, Miller returned to Lockport and resumed his law practice. He is also remembered as an early, “do-you-know-me?” spokesman for American Express Card.
Barry Goldwater made another visit to Niagara County in June of 1983, returning to offer a eulogy for his former running mate, Bill Miller, at a Mass of Christian Burial held at St. John’s Church in Lockport. Even in death, the two men’s lives were inexorably intertwined.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094