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Piecing together the past
Lee preserves history with her fathers life story
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Ruth Lee looks through bound copies of The Pembroke Journal at the Bryan County Courthouse in Pembroke in search of information about her father, the late Frank O. Miller, to help with her goal of writing a book about his life. - photo by Photo by Crissie Elrick

The late Frank O. Miller, a former Pembroke mayor and newspaper editor, is getting some attention.

That’s because his daughter, Ruth Lee, is researching his life and impact he had on the North Bryan city in hopes of publishing a book about her father.

Miller served 12 different terms as mayor for Pembroke and was also the editor of The Pembroke Journal, the local newspaper from the 1920s to the 1960s.

“His whole life was spent getting something done for the city and Bryan County, but Pembroke came first,” Lee said of her father, who died in the late 1960s. “He saw what he thought was needed and he promoted it.

“He was always willing to help people. When the Christian Church burned, he was on the forefront of raising the funds to rebuild it. He wasn’t a member, but he saw those needs and he acted on them.”

And to help put the story on paper, Lee is asking the community for help.

“What I’m asking of people is if they have recollections or stories of my father,” Lee said. “I’m not necessarily looking for people to tell me how wonderful Daddy was — that’s not the point. I want honest opinions of him and stories.”

Lee said she is looking for newspaper clippings, pictures or stories anyone would be willing to share. She and her niece spent weeks in the Bryan County Courthouse collecting scans of The Pembroke Journal, going back as far as 1931.

Lee also has spoken with several people who knew her father but is afraid she may have waited too long “because many people who were involved with him are no longer here,” she said.

She said the idea of turning her father’s life story into a book evolved from people encouraging her for years to do so.

“In talking to people over the years and living in the area, I thought I should,” she said. “(Former Savannah Morning News-Savannah Evening Press editor) Tom Coffey bugged me. He told me I should write a book about (my father) and other people have told me that.

“Plus you never get old enough to reflect on what went on before you,” she added. “It was a different era.”

Rather than start the book like a biography recounting his life from birth, Lee said she hopes to have a brief section about his roots, then sections describing him as “Frank Miller the editor” and “Frank Miller the mayor.”

“His chronological life is not what makes the story. It’s things to show what a bygone era newspaper editor and small town mayor is — that’s the story,” she said.

“I also intend to do a section on what was news in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s,” she said. “There’s a story to be told about what has happened to the weekly paper — it’s a different animal.”

She also plans to include a section of personal stories from people who knew her father to add a more personal feel to the book.

Lee not only hopes to receive new information about her father, but she also hopes people will enjoy reading the book once it is complete just as much as she is enjoying researching her father’s life and accomplishments.

“We hope that people appreciate the fact of what he did with his life, but also get a smile or two recounting his stories.”

Lee expects to have the book finished and ready for publishing by August. But if things don’t work out as planned, Lee is still keeping her head high.

“It’s been interesting if nothing else,” she said. “We’ve had a good journey looking at the life of Pembroke.”