Through five decades in Honolulu broadcasting, Bob Miller was a familiar voice to island residents as a TV anchor, reporter and radio announcer. A series of strokes took his ability to speak away from him, but that has not stopped Miller from finding his voice in other forms of communication.
Miller was born in Honolulu and moved to the mainland in 1940 at the age of 12. After a stint in the Army, he returned to the isles in 1948 to attend the University of Hawaii-Manoa. In 1953 he graduated with a degree in music and communication, two key ingredients he would use throughout his career.
His first break, as for many others at the time, was in radio. "I got a job at KAHU radio in Waipahu just in time to keep from substitute teaching," Miller recalls. He did a variety of jobs at the station, from the news to deejay duties — "and the best thing for me was classical music late at night."
Miller moved to KGMB radio in 1956, hired by radio program director Bob Costa. He transitioned to television news in 1958 at KGMB, working with Roger Coryell, Peter Burns, Frank Valenti and Wayne Collins.
After spending a year in Paris with his wife, Helen, Miller returned to the islands in 1962 and worked at KHVH radio as Lucky Luck’s newsman. He also reported the news for KHVH (now KITV) on television and filling in for the main anchor, John Galbraith. He later would co-anchor the 6 p.m. news with Bob Sevey while at KHVH television.
KONA television in 1965 had new owners who were revamping the news department. The station changed its call letters to KHON, and Wayne Collins and Miller debuted as the new news team on June 7, 1965. When Collins left the news business the following year, Miller returned to KHVH television, working with longtime colleague and friend Mason Altiery. In 1966, KHET debuted in the islands, then known as ETV, where Miller would work as a public affairs reporter.
In 1969 the Millers moved to Columbus, Ohio. After knocking on some news station doors, Miller got hired at the CBS affiliate, WBNS, as a reporter. This was during the peak of college campus demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which Miller covered at Ohio State. The chaos on the college campuses would eventually culminate in the tragic events at nearby Kent State when National Guard troops fatally shot four unarmed students.
The Millers returned to the islands in 1972, and Bob went to work at the state Capitol for Altiery, by then a state senator, and for Lt. Govs. Nelson Doi and Jean King.
On Nov. 13, 1981, Hawaii Public Radio was launched, and Miller was hired by the late Cliff Eblen as the station’s first program and news director. He hosted the popular "Morning Edition" program and was also the voice of the Honolulu Symphony for a while.
In 1998, at the age of 70, Miller decided to retire.
Despite two strokes that affected his ability to speak, Miller has maintained his sharp wit and remarkable memory. He is helped by family members and caregivers in Kaneohe where he lives.
Miller enjoys listening to music, especially Internet radio, and reads books via e-readers. He has worked with computers since the Tandy 100 days and communicates via e-mail, writes messages on paper and types words that convert to audio.
"The device I use to communicate is called TTS (text to speech) or synthesized speech," said Miller.
The stroke may have slowed his mobility, but he remains a communicator.
A.J. McWhorter, a collector of film and videotape cataloging Hawaii’s TV history, has worked as a producer, writer and researcher for both local and national media. His column runs on the second Sunday of each month. E-mail him at email@example.com.