Who is Miller Blvd. named for?

by Edward EllisMiller Blvd. street sign
for the Havelock News

It seemed like a simple question, really: Who is Miller Boulevard named for? Despite the simplicity, I had no luck through the years in gaining the answer until recently when the truth came in the form of a phone call, a list, and the memory of a visit by Harry S Truman to a kicking machine.

Miller Boulevard is one of the main traffic corridors of Havelock and runs between the old Atlantic and North Carolina railroad line and the “Crossroads” intersection at U.S. 70.

Beginning near the junction where Lake Road, Church Road and Greenfield Heights Boulevard come together, it is a section of the old Beaufort Road from colonial times. It was once a part of the magnificent Central Highway 10, a two-lane concrete beauty that ran across the whole state in the early part of the 20th century when automobiles were just getting used to being out of the mud.

Coming in from New Bern, Central Highway 10 snaked its way through Havelock down Church Road, around the curve at Trader’s Store, made a sharp turn to the right where the main gate is today and then ran off toward Morehead City.

Later the road was renamed United States Highway 70 and in the fifties was asphalted, four-laned, and shoved like an arrow straight through the heart of the city.

During the early days of modern Havelock the abandoned section of old US 70 was renamed Miller. By the 1990s, the source of the name had been forgotten by even the oldest residents.

I checked records. There were no historic Miller families known and no prominent Miller business or political people of that era for whom a road might have been named. I asked many of the folks who had grown up here. I wrote a few who had moved away. All drew blanks.

Finally, one suggested I ask Vance Harrington, a long-time Havelock businessman now up in years.

Vance “Buddy” Harrington was the developer of Havelock Park. All those little white houses that line one side of Miller Boulevard are in the first major subdivision built in Havelock after the coming of the U.S. Marine Corps to Cherry Point.

Harrington also owned other businesses here. He was, for example, the “H” in H&N Chevrolet, a mainstay firm on Main Street for the better part of four decades.

I found Mr. Harrington at his home in Greenville and posed my question. He said he didn’t remember. Then after a few more moments of thought he recalled that Miller Boulevard may have been named for “one of those generals over at Cherry Point.”

I asked all the historical detective questions:

“Which general?”

“Who named the road for the general?”

“What was the reason the general’s name was selected?”

“Was there a ceremony?”

The answers came back: Don’t know. Not me. Don’t remember. Sorry.

Since the naming pre-dates the founding of the City of Havelock and the publication of the first local newspaper the next stop was the air station library. In short order, Suzanne Shell, library manager, provided a chronological list of three dozen Cherry Point commanders and there he was: a brigadier general named Ivan W. Miller.

Brigadier General Ivan W. Miller had the top job at the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station from March 26, 1947 to June 21, 1950. Havelock Park was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Though there is no documentation found thus far, the timing fits perfectly and there is no reason to doubt Harrington’s recollection.

The rest came fairly quickly. Mike Barton, the deputy director of Cherry Point’s Joint Public Affairs Office, acquired a stern-looking official portrait of Miller taken the month after he assumed local command.

Stern-looking portrait of Marine BGen. Ivan W. Miller

Brigadier General Ivan W. Miller

The photograph by a Marine Corps photographer simply identified as “Little” was made in San Francisco on April 21, 1947. The wings on the general’s uniform identify one of the Marine Corps earliest pilots. Miller began earning them at Pensacola in 1920; just eight years after Alfred Austell Cunningham became the first leatherneck in the air.

Miller was born in 1898. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917 and graduated in 1920.

Following flight school his early assignments and further aviation training were carried out in tropical heat: Haiti and Nicaragua. Miller saw action as an aviator during World War II.

His last war-time duty was in the Pacific from 1944 to the end of the war the following year. After wartime service he was the commanding officer at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station followed by three years at Cherry Point. Miller ended his distinguished career with Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, 1950-51.

In 1970, Miller, age 72, was interviewed as part of an oral history program at Columbia University. Three reels of tape were made and we have inquired if any of the contents pertain to his service at Cherry Point. So far, Columbia has not found the time to respond.

The biggest event we know of during Miller’s tenure at the base was the visit of President Harry S. Truman, a big event indeed. The President’s prop-driven aircraft, the Independence, arrived on Sunday, November 7, 1948 en route to Key West so that Truman could attend services at First Baptist Church in New Bern. The pastor, Rev. Thomas Fryer, had visited Truman in Washington the previous summer, told the President of the historic pastorate founded in 1809 and invited him to visit.

President Harris S Truman arrives at Cherry Point, 1948

President Harris S Truman arrives at Cherry Point, N.C. Born in Kansas City, MO in 1884, Truman was the 33rd U.S. President. He served in office from 1945-53. As vice president, Truman took over upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt near the end of Wotld War II. Truman was 88 when he died in the day adter Christmas 1972.

Truman plane on Cherry Point runway 1948

The presidential aircraft of that era was “The Independence” pictured here on MCAS Cherry Point’s tarmac during President Truman’s visit. The plane was a Douglas VC-118, the military equivalent of the DC-6.

A cheering crowd of more than 1,000 greeted the President at Cherry Point as he stepped from his plane. The official greetings were from Miller, Congressman Graham A. Barden, and the Atlantic Fleet Marine Force commander, Major General Field Harris. A large group of dignitaries accompanied Truman to the New Bern services. So many news people were with the group that a small press pool was put together for the trip to the Colonial Capital. The rest of the journalists spent the day at the Cherry Point Officers Club where they were served “refreshments.” The church services were attended by adoring throngs and every politico within traveling distance.

On the return trip, Truman’s entourage stopped to see a local curiosity along the highway. Tom Haywood’s Store at Croatan, about six miles west of Havelock, was a well-known gas station and general store. Haywood, the owner, was a businessman, county commissioner and quite a cut-up. He had gained some national attention through his ownership of a “self-kicking” machine and his offering of memberships in the Self Kicking Club of America.

      (Article and photos on Tom Haywood’s Kicking Machine, The State magazine, April 1975 by Edward Ellis)

Tom Haywood's Kicking Machine

Tom Haywood demonstrates his wacky invention. The Kicking Machine was a popular roadside attraction at his country store at Croatan just west of Havelock. The original kicking machine now resides at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

Haywood’s contraption appeared in newspapers, magazines, and newsreels nationwide and Haywood appeared on CBS and NBC radio programs. Truman’s motorcade slowed to a crawl at Haywood’s so the President could have a look at the quirky landmark.

Back at the base by 12:40 p.m., the President thanked Miller and the other dignitaries. Everyone was reloaded on the Independence, including reporters refreshed or otherwise, and the flight continued toward Key West.

      (President Truman’s Cherry Point itinerary here.)

Miller may have been the first, but isn’t the only Cherry Point commander to be memorialized with a Havelock street name. Another is Major General Paul Fontana (1911-1997), a Marine aerial combat ace, who is the namesake of Fontana Boulevard, the black-top stretch from the crossroads intersection that passes the main gate before heading out toward Highway 101.

Over his career, Fontana had all three commands available at Cherry Point: the air station itself, the Second Marine Air Wing, and the aviation depot whose names have included O&R, NADEP and more recently the Fleet Readiness Center East.

Havelock’s eastern boundary is paralleled by Brown Blvd., named for Leslie W. Brown (1920-1997). Brown was Cherry Point’s CG from 1973-75. He saw combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and retired after 38 years of distinquished service as a lieutenant general.