KILGORE, TX (KLTV) - Drive downtown in the City of Kilgore and its easy to notice the many oil derricks that line Main Street, but what you may not notice is a plaque honoring the man behind re-erecting them.
Over 30 years, Charles L. Miller and his two-man crew put together and worked to preserve the oil derricks collected by Kilgore's Historic Preservation Foundation (KHPF). On March 10, Miller died at the age of 71.
"Charles helped put up the first derrick and the last derrick, and just about all of them in between," says Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, the founder of the KHPF. "It's a lost art, he's the last of his generation that knew how to erect a derrick."
The derricks were originally used in the 1960's, but were taken down once they were no longer needed to operate an oil well. In 1987, the KHPF began working to restore that piece of Kilgore's history by re-erecting the derricks and creating the city's now iconic skyline.
Spradlin says once Miller began working on the derricks, it was impossible to get him to stop. He continued to work on erecting derricks and installing the holiday lights on them, regardless of being in his 70's.
"He was one of those silent John Wayne kind of guys," says Spradlin. "He didn't say very much, but he got his work done. He was steady, dependable, and great to work with, and without him, I guess there will be no more derricks put up in Kilgore."
In 1989, the KHPF won the Anice Read Award from the Texas Historical Commission for the most unique preservation effort in the state, an accomplishment Spradlin says wouldn't have been possible without Miller.
Miller erected the last derrick in Kilgore in 2017.