Newspaperman, novelist, teacher, and “maddog” Jay Milner, 88, died in Fort Worth on Sunday, several weeks after suffering a stroke.
Milner was among a notorious bunch of Texas writers in the 1950s and 1960s who dubbed themselves “Maddogs.” They combined a partying lifestyle with a vast literary output that spanned decades.
The group included Bud Shrake, Gary Cartwright, Larry L. King, Dan Jenkins, and Billie Lee Brammer.
Fort Worth Weekly featured Milner in a cover story (“Maddog In Winter”) in 2002.
Milner’s first novel, Incident at Ashton, was published in 1961. His second appeared in 1998: Confessions of a Maddog: A Romp Through The High-Flying Texas Music and Literary Era of the Fifties to the Seventies.
In between, Milner wrote for numerous newspapers, taught writing classes at Texas Christian University in the 1960s, and led the Southern Methodist University journalism department in the early 1970s.
Milner was managing editor of the original Texas Music Magazine and the Dallas-based Iconoclast in the 1970s and worked as a publicist for Willie Nelson during the singer’s heyday.
The phrase “maddog” is deceiving: Milner might have been a speed-freak writer and party animal back in the old days, but the last 30-plus years were marked by stability, healthy living, and a gentle sweetness. And, of course, the ability to tell a hell of a rousing tale.
I’ll always appreciate hanging out with Milner in 2002 while writing a cover story about him. He was 78 back then and settled into a reclusive, quiet life. He still wrote a little bit but mostly he just wanted to spend time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Milner battled dementia in his final years. I stopped by to visit him at the Fort Worth home that he shared with his wife, Gail, a few years ago, but he didn’t remember me. I asked him about the wild old days but he couldn’t remember them either.
Until I mentioned one name.
Milner’s face lit up when I asked about Willie Nelson. Alzheimer’s hadn’t yet stolen Milner’s memories of his old friend.
Funeral details will be provided soon.