Award-winning journalist Anita Miller Byley, who dedicated more than four decades to telling the stories of the people of Hays County, died October 26 with her husband David Byley and family by her side at Ascension Seton Hospital in Kyle.
Miller served as managing editor of the Hays Free Press for a year before ill health required her to step down. She worked at the San Marcos Daily Record for 39 years.
A graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in journalism in 1975, she joined the Record in 1980.
She mentored countless student journalists and rising stars, including Carly Porterfield, now a reporter with Forbes Magazine, and Ashley Landis, a photographer for AP who recently covered the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
She outlasted dozens of reporters, some who moved to larger publications and others who left the profession for greener, more lucrative pastures. Her collegiality and encouragement inspired excellence and ambition.
Her devotion to chronicling the lives of the people of San Marcos and Hays County never wavered—through disasters and recovery, heartwarming achievements and victories, tragedies and loss, the growth of institutions, and the adventures and passages of San Marcos heroes, icons—and a few villains.
At the Record, Anita Miller rose from being a reporter in 1980 to news editor in 2000 to managing editor in 2015. For many years, Anita was THE photographer for the newspaper, capturing events in pictures and words.
Her love for the San Marcos community, the river, the people, local organizations and their challenges inspired her to support their efforts by telling their stories—every day—in the newspaper.
She reached out to organizations, provided editorial space to explore important community issues, and with every issue of the newspaper, published stories about local governments, schools and non-profit activities.
In the aftermath of the 2015 floods, Anita was in Martindale, writing a story about a donation center for flood victims. When she finished her gathering the information for her story, she spent the rest of the night driving members of the small riverside community to their flood ravaged homes to inspect the damage and determine what they might be able to salvage.
While reporting an event at the Devil’s Backbone, she saw that two dogs had the misfortune of encountering a porcupine. Anita spent the next several hours at a veterinary clinic helping the vet pull quills from the dogs.
Another time, covering an EMS emergency response to a heart attack victim, she held an IV bag to assist the medics.
Miller won numerous journalism awards from the Texas Press Association, South Texas Press Association and the Associated Press. She was a graduate of the first class of the San Marcos Citizens Police Academy.
She was inducted into the San Marcos Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018 and presented with the Friend of the River Award by the San Marcos River Foundation in 2013. She also was honored by Hays County and the City of San Marcos for her achievements.
Anita Miller was born on November 16, 1952, in Port Lavaca, Texas to the late Anita Estelle Campbell and Burnice “Bud” Gwyn Miller. Bud served as an Army Sergeant in WWII, was wounded in Africa, and returned home to marry Anita, who owned a children’s clothing store.
Her parents managed The Catclaw dancehall and then a ranch before settling down in Port Lavaca as the Mobil Oil Company Consignee. Her beloved uncle Leonard Miller was a great influence in her life and helped her achieve her education. Fishing was a family joy, as were trips to the beach in Port Aransas.
Anita attended Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca where she was a leader in the Student Council’s fight to change the dress code for girls, finally allowing them to wear pantsuits instead of only dresses.
She sewed many of her own clothes and was named Best Dressed her senior year. She was also named Most Beautiful Hair. Family folklore has it that due to a near fatal case of pneumonia when Anita was 6 years old, her hair changed from brown, coarse and wavy to the sleek jet-black hair she was known for.
Anita Miller was a member of both band and choir and graduated from CHS in the top 10 of her class in 1971. She chose to attend The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a B.A. in Journalism in 1975. She was an active member of The First United Methodist Church.
She married musician David Byley on November 11, 1984, at the Veramendi Plaza Gazebo in San Marcos and they devoted the next 37 years to each other, living for many years in a house near Martindale on the San Marcos River.
Anita Miller persisted despite many personal challenges: she was once bitten by a rattlesnake and survived. She successfully overcame cancer and once broke her hip and came back strong.
Anita is survived by her husband David; her sisters Susan Tippit, Gloria Crone and Betsy McDaniel; brothers-in-law Allen Tippit, Gary Crone and Terry McDaniel; nieces and nephews Remi Chaisson Miller Tippit Keathly, Hannah Estelle Crone, Lori McDaniel Henry, T.J. McDaniel, Julissa Lopez and Gary Crone Jr.; and second cousins Beth Nichols Gibson and Kelly Nichols.
A celebration of Anita’s life will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5 at The Meadows Center at Spring Lake.
Donations in Anita Miller Byley’s memory may be made to The River Foundation, El Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos and its Amigas group, Dunbar Heritage Association, Mano Amiga, LULAC, the Institute for Indigenous Cultures, La Sociedad de Cuauhtemoc, Southside Community Center and the Hays Caldwell Women’s Center.
Submitted by Melissa Millecam with contributors David Byley, Gloria Crone, Dianne Wassenich, Susan Hanson, Diana Finlay Hendricks, Kim Porterfield and Ashley Landis.