Chairman’s Corner by Scott McGraw

When I was a kid, I used to love political season, especially in presidential years. In the sixties, when I was very young, I remember staying up to the wee hours of the morning during the 1968 election when Richard Nixon won the presidency. It was exciting seeing the speeches and the tallies from all the states as the results came in. Of course, this was before the television networks would call the race by 8 or 9 o’clock. There were only three networks back then and they would pre-empt all the coverage for the election. Kids couldn’t watch the regular Tuesday night programming, so it was pretty much all you could watch.

As I got older, my mother and father got very involved in politics, working for the Kalamazoo County Republican Party for many years. They got their kids involved, too. I can remember when Kalamazoo hosted the state convention in the late eighties, I chauffeured around Alexander Haig, Spence Abraham, Elizabeth Dole and Jeane Kirkpatrick. My mom, who was vice chair for many years, helped many candidates during this time. I also remember nights stuffing envelopes and setting up walking lists for many of the candidates she supported, including Jim Gilmore and Dick Milliman.

I received word this week that Dick Milliman passed away. Dick was a candidate for Congress against Howard Wolpe, back when Kalamazoo was in the third district. Dick worked very hard in that race, but came up short against a strong Democratic incumbent. I later went on to work for the Milliman family in their newspaper business. They had newspapers in Three Rivers, Marshall, Albion, Grayling and Rogers City when I worked for them. Over his lifetime, he had owned and operated about 50 community newspapers. He was press secretary for Governor George Romney and possibly would have been the presidential press secretary if Romney hadn’t made the “brain-washed” comments during his presidential bid.

I truly admired Dick Milliman and learned a lot from the man. I remember his son Dirk showing me a list of 20 things to make you a successful manager. Dick had made the list for a family member who was struggling with running one of his operations. It included things like “get to work a half hour earlier than anyone else” and “come to work on Saturday morning to get your desk organized to start the week off right on Monday.” There were many more items on that list and all of them were common sense. I made a copy of that list and kept it visible on my desk for most of my career.

Over the years, I became close friends with the Millimans. Since leaving the newspaper business, I haven’t seen them as much as I should have but have enjoy the times we have shared in recent years. Dick and Dirk were fixtures at the Michigan Press Association’s annual golf fundraiser for their foundation. I’ve always been so proud that I was on the winning teams at two of the recent golf outings. I’m sure I owe that honor to Dick, since he included the “Calloway” system into the tournament scoring. I still don’t know what the Calloway system is.

It’s rare to see someone so committed to his profession and family. I believe all three of their children have worked in the family business, as well as several of their spouses and, now, grandchildren. Dick raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for journalism scholarships over the years as a way to give back to the profession and to the next generation of journalists.

And he was a political junkie, as well, just as my parents were. In fact, they were friends with the Millimans over the years, too. My mom was Dick’s county chair in Kalamazoo during his congressional race. I’m going to miss Dick Milliman as hundreds of his friends and family will. I’m glad this generous man influenced me; his leadership in journalism and politics made Michigan a better place to live.