In 1927 the federal government determined that “any honorably discharged soldier, sailor, marine or nurse who had served at least 90 days or more in the military or naval forces of the United States and who was totally disabled as evidenced by a pension certificate or the award of compensation, and the widow of any such soldier, sailor or marine, may have the amount of $1,000 deducted from his or her taxable property providing the amount of taxable property as shown by the tax duplicate shall not exceed the amount of $5,000 and the amount remaining after such deduction shall have been made shall constitute the basis for assessment and taxation. PROVIDED, FURTHER, that the age of 62 shall constitute the basis of total disability for any pensioner. Acts 1927, p. 519.)”
In 1938 and 1939, Monroe County collected the information from those claiming an exemption under the 1927 Act and compiled them into books, one for each year. The unpaginated books are compiled in alphabetical order by surname and available at the genealogy library at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington, Indiana.
An index to the two volumes was recently completed and made available to the many county databases available online through the Indiana Genealogy Society website. Although many of the Monroe County databases at the IGS website are free to anyone, the combined index to the two volumes of affidavits is restricted to members only. The index includes: name, address and age of recipient; war in which the veteran served; and year of volume.
Denny Miller, according to the name on his birth certificate, was born Dennis Linn Miller. Later he was known as Denny Scott Miller and Scott Miller. His parents were Bernard “Ben” W. and Martha (Linn) Miller. They lived at 314 E. University at the time of Denny’s birth, and “Ben” was employed as a high school teacher.
Ben had a twin brother named Len. Both boys were local basketball stars in Waldron, Indiana, and later played at Indiana University with Branch McCracken. Ben later became a physical education instructor at IU. It’s, therefore, not too surprising that Denny began playing basketball early and played it well. His younger brother, Kent, followed in his footsteps. By the time of Kent’s birth, the Miller family was living at 449 S. Henderson.
When Denny was in the fourth grade, his father took another job and the family left Bloomington. After living for a time in Maryland and New York, the Millers settled in Los Angeles where Ben was a member of the faculty at UCLA for many years and Denny and Kent had full-ride scholarships to play basketball.
To help pay for his schooling, Denny had a job moving furniture during his senior year. A Hollywood talent agent took notice of the good looking, 6’4” guy with a physically fit, athletic body and signed him to the MGM studio. Denny’s first starring role was Tarzan in a 1959 remake of the 1932 classic Tarzan, the Ape Man. It launched his career.
Although Denny did not star in other Tarzan films, he went on have a role in more than 200 television and movie productions many of which were Westerns. He was best known as a regular on 107 episodes of Wagon Train from 1961-1964. He also appeared in more than 80 commercials. For fourteen years he played the Gorton fisherman.
In later years he continued to live in LA where he wrote several books. His first, Didn’t You Used to be What’s His Name, was a well-illustrated autobiography published in 2004. It was selected for inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club. The second book, Toxic Waist?…Get to Know Sweat! was published in 2006 and delivered an important message about the obesity epidemic in America.
Having earned his degree in physical education, Denny was an advocate of healthy living for most of his life. Up until the time that his body was ravaged by ALS, he was able to wear the same loin cloth that he had worn as Tarzan in 1959. ALS, commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s disease, affects those nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement like chewing, walking and talking. Most people affected with ALS die from respiratory failure.
Denny died at the age of 80 on September 9, 2014. He was survived by his second wife, Nancy, and a son and daughter. His obituary, containing details of his long career, can be found many places online.
Sources: Fred D. Cavinder, More Amazing Tales from Indiana (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 2003), 208 pages.
In the 1930s and early 1940s, more than 140 years after the U. S. Constitution declared slavery illegal in the United States, former slaves were interviewed under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. The materials, archived at the Library of Congress, are known as the Slave Narrative Collection. Some of the narratives have been published including “Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938—Indiana.” Although a majority of the narratives in that particular collection are from Vanderburgh County, there is one from Monroe County. It consists of an interview with Thomas Lewis. (See pp. 123-127.)
Lewis reportedly was born a slave in Spencer County, Kentucky, in 1857. His father was killed “in the Northern army” and afterward he lived with his mother, stepfather and several siblings. When Lewis was seven years old he was set free and when he was twelve the family located in Indiana.
Family members met in Louisville and took a ferry across the Ohio River into New Albany. The next morning after their arrival, they left for Bloomington. In Bloomington, Lewis recalled meeting the Dorsett family. “Two of their daughters had been sold before the war. After the war, when the black people were free, the daughters heard some way that their people were in Bloomington. It was a happy time when they met their parents.”
Lewis had a cousin name Jerry. Before the slaves were freed “…[A] white man asked Jerry how he would like to be free. Jerry said that he would like it all right. The white men took him into the barn and were going to put him over a barrel and beat him half to death. Just as they were about ready to beat him [a] bomb went off [presumably planted by Union soldiers] and Jerry escaped…There was no such thing as being good to slaves. Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master and there was no way to get out of it…If a slave resisted and his master killed him, it was the same as self-defense today.”
On June 30, 1885, Lewis married Mary Gill. Together with her he fathered at least two children, Howard and Ethel. He married a second time to Geneva Johnson in Monroe County in1923 and fathered four more children: Anna, James, George and Raymond.
Most of his life was spent in Monroe County where he was employed at a variety of jobs. Undoubtedly he was limited by his lack of education. According to the 1940 census, he had completed only grades one through three.
As he became advanced in years, he went to live at the Monroe County Home otherwise known as the poor house. On September 19, 1951, at the age of 99, he died in the Bloomington Hospital. According to his death record, completed by his son, Howard, Lewis’s father was unknown and his mother’s maiden name was noted simply as Drake. Other records indicate Thomas Lewis was the son of Elijah and Sina (Drake) Lewis. Sina was later married to George Ditto.
NOTE: Two copies of the book titled Slave Narratives…Indiana are available at the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington. One is shelved with Adult Nonfiction; the other in the Indiana Room. The latter does not circulate. See call number 306.362 Ind. The interview with Thomas Lewis as noted in the book is also available online at https://www.accessgenealogy.com/black-genealogy/slave-narrative-of-thomas-lewis.htm