To some, Vern Miller was the "Super Cop," who, as Kansas Attorney General, raided night clubs — including the Great Bend Petroleum Club — and confiscated cases of liquor from Amtrak trains. Others had a less charitable view of Miller, and took to spray painting the name "Vern" under the word "Stop" on stop signs in the 1970s.
Miller will be at the Great Bend Public Library, 1409 Williams St., from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, signing copies of his biography, "Vern Miller: Legendary Kansas Lawman." Mike Danford, author of the book, will also be on hand, said Terri Hurley, public relations director at the library. He is expected to have a few copies of the book for sale. Published by iUniverse Inc., the book is also available online or can be ordered from book stores.
Danford, who grew up in Wichita and has started writing in his retirement, does not conceal his admiration for the subject of his book. In the introduction he states, "Frankly, many of us who know him fully expect that his epitaph will read simply that ‘He was the ultimate lawman’ and his legacy to us will be the very definition of the word ‘accomplishment.’"
But former Great Bend Mayor Robert Parrish is less charitable, assigning Miller’s raids in Great Bend to political aspirations. "We were blasted all over the state in the media," Parrish says of the raids. "It was hilarious, except it was so serious."
Former City Attorney Ed Moses, who is mentioned by title but not named in Danford’s book, agrees that Miller’s unique approach to law enforcement put Great Bend in a bad light, while certain clubs in Miller’s Wichita never seemed to get raided.
"He was quite a character," Moses told the Great Bend Tribune in a telephone interview from his home in Sun City West, Ariz. "I think he went overboard in the enforcement." The Petroleum Club was having a casino night as a fundraiser the night Miller came to town, leading one of the largest raids ever on gambling in Kansas.
Miller also had undercover agents hop on a train in Missouri and purchase liquor by the drink in Kansas, which was a "dry" state. After raiding a train he received national recognition, with some saying he wanted to stop airplanes from serving alcohol as they flew over the state.
The raid on Great Bend is recounted in the book, describing a city that was "wide open" to gambling in the form of bingo, slot machines at fraternal organizations, and the occasional casino night at the country club. Danford writes that a "somewhat inebriated city attorney staggered into view ... obviously very upset and angry because of the raid."
Like many who tangled with Miller, Moses says the former attorney general "deserves his due" when it comes to determination. While he was a sheriff Miller put himself through law school.
Miller himself is aware that his zealous approach to law enforcement wasn’t always endearing. Materials promoting his book signing note, "Vern loves finding familiar faces that were involved in the multitude of legal confrontations of his career. Bring your camera."