For those of you who know Kenneth Miller, lead custodian at Lufkin High School, (also known as “Bucket”), you know he not only has a great attitude, but also a killer smile.
“They like my smile,” he said. “I throw my smile at ’em every now and then.”
When Miller is smiling, it could mean the Cowboys are winning, his Chihuahua named “Spot Lightning McQueen Miller” is behaving, and/or all is well with the 16 employees he manages at the high school. His employees have night or day shifts, and Miller takes the 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. shift (and sometimes later), which he loves.
“I take pride in my work,” he said. “I have to. I want to be a good role model. I love working nights. I am not a morning person.”
As far as how he got his nickname, “Bucket,” Miller said he’s had that name for quite some time.
“I drove an ’82 Grand Prix two-door car, and the passenger side door was stuck,” he said. “I had to strap it down and roll down the window so my nephew could climb in like the Dukes of Hazzard. My nephew would say, ‘Your car is nothing but a bucket,’ and the name stuck with the car and then became me.”
That nephew was the late Joseph Suell. A lot of people from Lufkin remember Miller’s nephew, who was an amazing basketball player at Lufkin High School, served our country and passed away in Iraq.
Miller has been all too familiar with losing family members. His mother passed away when he was 8 years old, and yet he still has her memory fresh in his mind. That was when he lived in San Antonio. After she passed, his dad moved him and his brother back to East Texas to be close to family.
“My dad had nine sisters, and they did a bang-up job,” Miller said. “They spoiled me and my brother. They bought us bicycles. We couldn’t wait for Christmas.”
Miller attended Nacogdoches High School, where he played defensive tackle on the football team and holds the record for most sacks when he was on a JV team that had a season record of 10-0.
“I grew from 5 foot, 5 inches in eighth grade to 6 foot, 2 inches, 178 pounds my ninth-grade year,” he said. “I was big and fast.”
He was so fast, he went to state in the 400-meter race and the 400-meter relay in track.
“We got waxed at state,” Miller laughed. “Some team out of Dallas.”
After high school, he experienced another loss. His dad passed away from cancer.
“We had my dad’s wake on my 18th birthday,” Miller said. “I moved to Lufkin and lived with my brother, Elroy. He was working at Lufkin Industries, making good money. He now lives in Tyler and has worked for Pepsi for 40 years.”
Miller’s first job was at Wyatt’s Cafeteria in the Lufkin Mall, where lunch was “on the house” for employees.
“I would get two chicken fried steaks stacked with gravy in between and three rolls, a bowl of mac-n-cheese, a Coke and fried okra,” he said, laughing. “I ate the profits. I ate real good.”
After that, Miller went to Guthrie, Oklahoma, where he got two years of schooling with the Job Corps, a program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that offers free education and vocational training. He learned graphic arts and how to use the 35mm camera. Then he moved back home, where he had a collection of jobs from Pilgrim’s to Texas Foundries to the Burke Center and then Lufkin ISD, where he has worked for the past 21 years.
Miller has two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Keyln, and a fiancé, Constance McQueen. He met his fiancé when she was experiencing car trouble and Miller stopped to help.
“I stopped to see what was going on,” he said. “We had to leave her car, and I took her to her mom’s. We called and had the car towed and fixed. I gave her my phone number and told her to call me if she needed more help.
“She needed help … but not with her car,” he said, laughing. “We started dating.”
Miller is definitely a football fan and loves his Dallas Cowboys.
“My favorite player since Dez is no longer on the team would still be No. 88, (wide receiver CeeDee Lamb),” Miller said.
If Miller can’t be watching a football game, then he’s going to be playing a football video game. His favorite is Madden on PlayStation 5.
Miller is known to be the keeper of the keys. If you see his key chain, you’ll know why. He admits he knows what 90% of the keys go to and that he inherited them. He also can fix just about anything. He’s done odd jobs over the years, giving him skills like roofing and waxing floors. He always steps in when his employees need help.
Being in charge of people can have its challenges. Miller said it’s hard to get people who want to work because since the pandemic so many people want to work from home. As a manager of people, he works hard to keep things on track.
“I try to be fair,” he said. “When you see trouble coming, stay ahead of it.”
When asked what’s the easiest part of his day, he said with a laugh and that bright smile that can fill a room, “The easiest part of my day is clocking out!”
PHOTO BY: ANDY ADAMS/Lufkin ISD