Video: Miers a trailblazer

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/4/2005 2:55:18 PM ET 2005-10-04T18:55:18

So just what kind of person is Harriet Miers, President Bush's pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court?

Her friends and former colleagues in Dallas describe her as "moderate to conservative," which doesn't tell us much.

And a quick read of the Texas morning papers tells us that op-ed writers really don't know either.

"When conservatives get to know here they'll respect her," says the headline to one column. "I'll wait and see where she stands on the constitution," says another.

So, what do we know?            

‘Voice of reason’ in elected office
Harriet Miers was born in 1945 in Dallas, where she grew up and attended high school and college. She majored in math at Southern Methodist University, from which she also got her law degree.

She was the first woman hired at a big local law firm, the first woman to head the Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.

Perhaps the most information comes from the period when Miers was an elected public official, sitting for two years on the Dallas City Council as a member-at-large (in other words, not from defined district).

One local columnist hailed her as the "voice of reason" on the council back then.

Another take comes from Lorlee Bartos, who was Miers' campaign manager back when she ran for the council in 1989.

Bartos says Miers was opposed to abortion rights back then. "I think Harriet's belief was pretty strongly felt," said Ms. Bartos. "She is on the extreme end of the anti-choice movement."           

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‘Fair’ to ‘dour, cold’
Former city manager Jan Hart Black, who worked with Miers on the city council, was less blunt. "I think she has an incredible sense of fairness and a strong sense of ethics," he said. "She worked very well with her colleagues.”

However, a Dallas Morning News article about Miers back then described her as "dour, cold uncompromising and uncommunicative" to some of her colleagues on the city council.

On the other hand, the same article said she is "warm, sensitive, humorous and loyal" to her family and friends.

Tim Mountz, another friend and former co-worker of Miers, said she is "very steady and very reasoned, and a rational type of person that we would want to see on the Supreme Court."

‘One tough cookie’ at the Texas Lottery Commision
Miers' five years as the chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commision also exposed her to the limelight.

She was appointed as the head of the three-member commission by then-Governor Bush in 1994 and proved to be a tough administrator, firing two executive directors.

"Although she's a small-framed woman, we all believed she came through the Marines — and maybe ate nails for breakfast — because she's one tough cookie," said Horace Taylor, a former lottery employee who worked for Miers.

John Hill, a former lottery commissioner, Texas attorney general and chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, said Miers was fair and judicious, even during times of great turmoil. "She's not bullheaded and she certainly listens to other people's viewpoints," said Hill.

Most important booster, a fellow Texan
Regardless of what others in the Lone Star state think, she has the confidence of her fellow Texan George W. Bush. During his press conference on Tuesday, the president praised her as “a pioneer in Texas” who didn’t “kind of opine about things; she actually led.”

Bush chalked up the fact that people didn’t know more about Miers as being because “she hasn't been, you know, one of these publicity hounds. She's been somebody just quietly does her job.” 

Jim Cummins is the NBC News Bureau Chief in Dallas and lead correspondent. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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