The curse of being rich...

Dateline: Wed 09 Jun 2010

In October, 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was president and the world seemed as if it was splitting at the seams and then spilling over into utter madness, Esquire magazine ran a cover story with a photo of a handsome, silver-haired man. Over his image was the caption: "This man ought to be the next President of the United States."

The picture, in profile, was J. Irwin Miller, a Columbus, Ind., banker and businessman whose sober Christianity and integrity, along with his incredible skills at enterprise, made him, according to Esquire, THE catch for the country.

Of course, Richard Nixon was elected, and life went on, after a fashion.

But I never forgot that Esquire had featured a Hoosier on its cover at a time when we were reeling, nor one of Miller's quotes from the story: "Look to the rock from whence you came," Miller said, meaning, take pride in your faith, your family and your heritage. I think it's an Old Testament line.

"So on we worked and waited for the light, and went without the meat and cursed the bread..." to quote the wonderful poem Richard Cory. So while the rest of us were going about our tiny and oft miserable daily lives, the Miller family continued to prosper, creating the Columbus that exists today, making art and the humanities and charity their priorities, and, sadly, apparently, unraveling -- no different from the rest of us. Except, of course, they had tons of money.

That is the essence of the message of the story on the cover of the current Indianapolis Business Journal by Kathleen McLaughlin, "Heirs at odds....Miller brothers who shared in fortune fighting over $3 million."

How sad.

Mr. Miller died in 2004; his wife Xenia died in 2008. The five surviving children -- oldest son Hugh, younger brother William and three sisters -- each inherited $20 million each. But Hugh, who according to the IBJ never enjoyed the "trusting relationship" with his parents that his younger brother did, is suing over a piddly $3 mil. His position is that his brother, who is a banker in Indiana, spent $2.7 million on upkeep for an Irwin home; the mother was unable to approve of these expenditures, because of severe dementia.

So it comes down to "a matter of principle," says Hugh's attorney.

I say it is a matter of personalities.

The story is further enhanced by quoting from J. Irwin Miller's letters to his children, urging them to cooperate (in regards to another matter, a large property/family compound in Canada). He also stressed that his family had "worked and lived to make a constructive contribution to our community, church and nation."

In the website Brainy Quotes, I found this, also attributed to Mr. Miller:

"The decline of manners, the cynical pursuit without shame or restraint of personal advantage and of money characterizes our times, not without exceptions, of course, but more than we ought to be comfortable with."

Here is the picture of the Esquire from 1967, when things, apparently, were much better...


Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

And I don't remember a word of scandal ever about J. Irwin. This President Miller would have been more to my liking than either Humphrey or Nixon, I am certain, and certainly better for America. Thanks!

2010-06-09 22:08:01

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

R, you do remember how Richard Cory ended, don't you?

2010-06-10 06:33:03

ruthholl [Member] said:

Yes, on a very grim note. Perhaps it was not the correct poem to quote, since obviously Mr. Miller and his wife both lived full and honorable lives and died of natural causes.
But I do love that line...about cursing the bread and waiting for the light.
Did you read that poem in high school? I think most of our age group did.

2010-06-10 07:05:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I didn't read it. Fascinating. And the Millers are doubtless rolling in their graves. Or ash piles/urns. Or whatever. A very forward thinker, ahead of his time, generous, not pompous. A good Columbus friend of mine recalls countless tales of Miller family anonymous assistance.

Their ilk is, sadly, mostly gone.

2010-06-10 08:11:49

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

It wasn't an inappropriate quote. It means the lives of the privileged can be less than they appear. While Mr and Mrs Miller appear to have led exemplary-- and very highly privilleged lives: it requied more than a quarter million bucks annually to maintain their summer places?!-- something caused a disconnect in their kids lives for them to be squabbling over a relatively unimportant sum of money. That sum clearly has more symbolism than a mere dollar sign. (Brenda Simon herewith comes to mind: how much is "enough?" For some, there is never "enough," even though Brenda could never in her lifetime spend what she has.)

2010-06-10 08:14:32

hendy [Member] said:

There are unsung heros out there by the dozens; a handful had the Miller's wealth.

Putting Miller on a pedestal is largely deserved. Yet there are community builders, philanthropists, and visionaries abounding.

Bill Cook is one of those guys, building Bloomington and Orange County. He's one of many. There are true princes among our corporate royalty today. Not enough....

2010-06-10 08:16:53

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Some rare successful folks were born with a sense of noblesse oblige. Cook and Miller amongst them.

2010-06-10 11:44:15

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

It is very unfair to blame the parents for this squabble between the kids, over an inheritance. Thinking of the lyrics from the father's song in Broadway musical, "The Fantastics", about the difficulties of determining the outcome of parenting, "Plant a Carrot, get a carrot, not a brussel sprout". You know the rest.

2010-06-10 19:10:21

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

Oh, and out of jealousy Cain killed Able. I never thought to portion blame on Adam and/or Eve. lol.

2010-06-12 01:27:28

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