Perhaps it is because of the sight of our nation's capitol surrounded by fencing, razor wire, and troops, and New Mexico's beloved Roundhouse steps and building and Capitol Building North (where I worked for roughly nine years) also lined with barriers and fencing, that I started thinking about Ernie Mills. Born in Pittsburgh in 1926, the stalwart journalist and broadcaster came to New Mexico in 1957 to work for the Gallup Independent newspaper and from there to serve as the Albuquerque Journal capitol bureau chief. He eventually took his column to radio and in 1965 started a syndicated radio broadcast, Dateline: New Mexico. I had not met Mills when I contacted him, basically to pick his brain for my project on people around the state. That project eventually became A Place Like No Other: people of an enchanted land (Sunstone Press, 2002). We met at the Hilton in Santa Fe in late 1995. I took copious notes and names of those he felt were movers and shakers in the state. The man was a virtual encyclopedia of New Mexico's history and its people. I eventually photographed him, outside the capitol building from which his broadcasts originated. I can still hear his voice in my head saying such iconic things as his opening "This is Ernie Mills, Dateline: New Mexico", "don't say we didn't tell you", and "a little birdie told me", all in the style of Paul Harvey. Ironically, both he and Harvey were war correspondents - Harvey in World War II and Mills during the Vietnam Era. His reporting focused on the New Mexico men and women serving in the military during two tours in Vietnam, including the Tet offensive in 1968. He also was instrumental in aiding the negotiations during the infamous riot at the State Penitentiary in 1980. But the bulk of his New Mexico reporting involved politics and legislation from the capitol.
Here is a sprinkling of shots I made of him. Unfortunately, my scanner did not survive our move with all its parts, thus, these are digital photographs of gelatin-silver prints made in 1999.
Mills had an amazing history in journalism and knowledge of the people and politics in New Mexico. But I wonder what Ernie would be thinking about the current political climate in our country, the players in our state, and the insurrection in Washington, D. C. No doubt, he would be fascinated, and perhaps somewhat dismayed. He had such a firm faith in the institutions and people that he would be fighting in some way to keep us together.
Here is the photograph that I used for the book, with Mills standing on the northeast side of the Roundhouse. I was keeping my fingers crossed all weekend, and will continue to do so until after the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on 20 January, in hopes that no harm will come to this historic place or lawmakers during the 60 days session starting tomorrow.
Thanks to Barbara, Char, Terry T., Catherine, Steve, Jean and Same, Louse, and Wayne for your comments this week! I hope all who are reading find beauty and joy in the world, and some of you head out with your cameras to document the world!
until next Monday,
a passion for the [email protected]