Of course I’d known of him, Miller Williams. In the 1990s, living in Little Rock, I was relearning how to read verse. He was an Arkansas poetry icon, along with Maya Angelou and John Gould Fletcher. We claim a good share of songwriters as well. Miller died Jan. 1, 2015, at age 84.
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In early 1999, My Beloved and I found our offer accepted on a 1961 house in Fayetteville, under a mile northwest of the University. The owners, Jake and Carol, were moving to a condo in town, he having retired as an agriculture professor. We came over to meet them. The women talked, and Jake led me out the front door. Leaning against the iron railing of the narrow porch, Jake pointed across the street. “Aren’t you a word guy, since you work in newspapers?” Jake asked. “You ever heard of Miller Williams? That’s his house.”
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A few weeks later, I’m climbing down from the attic, whose door is in the carport’s ceiling, where I’d been storing now-empty boxes. A balding man with a trim gray beard is standing there. I jump. “I didn’t mean to startle you, I’m Miller. We live kiddy-cornered from you. Jordan thought you could use these. [It was a paper plate of homemade cookies and two cold sodas.] We didn’t know what you liked so I chose a can of Coke and one a Sprite. Come over anytime. We have wine about 5.”