R.A. Miller was the youngest of eight children. Six months before Mr. Miller was born, his father was shot and killed by a neighbor who wanted to control a public road. His father died on Christmas Day. At 12 years of age, Miller walked back and forth to work in the cotton mill, where he worked for 20 years. Mr. Miller cut and sold firewood for 50 cents a load.
Miller lived most of his life on the property where he was born and raised. The original house was blown away in the tornado of 1936 that destroyed Gainesville, GA and killed many people. After his marriage, Miller found religion and started preaching at tent revival meetings all over Northeast Georgia.
After retiring from the cotton mill, farming and preaching, Mr. Miller once again started making the whirligigs he had made as a boy.
He would use tin, bicycle parts and scrap metal as his materials. He is known for the painted animals that he found inspiration for by watching National Geographic. His artwork has appeared in the band R.E.M.’s videos and was shown at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta exhibition "Outside the Mainstream: Folk Art in our Time." He has exhibited in galleries worldwide and has work in The Museum of American Folk Art in New York.
"I was just an old man trying to get by," said Miller. "My guardian angel told me to build all this and people will pass by and buy 'em."
Highly collected and always in demand, Miller is considered one of the most prominent "elder" American folk artists.