J. Irwin Miller

J. Irwin Miller

Joseph Irwin Miller (May 26 1909 — August 19 2004) was an American industrialist, patron of modern architecture, and lay leader in the Christian ecumenical movement and civil rights. He was instrumental in the rise of the Cummins Corporation and giving his hometown of Columbus, Indiana international stature with its buildings.

Miller was born in Columbus, Indiana to Hugh Thomas Miller, a college professor and politician, and Nettie Irwin Sweeney. He had one sister, Elizabeth Clementine Miller (1905 — 1996).

Miller was a 1931 graduate of Yale University and made Phi Beta Kappa. From 1931 to 1933 he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Balliol College, Oxford, which made him an Honorary Fellow in 1974. Miller joined Cummins, the family business, in 1934.

He was executive vice president from 1944 to 1947, president from 1947 to 1951, and chairman from 1951 to 1977. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during the Second World War.

In 1950, Miller helped to establish the National Council of Churches (NCC) and later served as its first lay president (1960-63). Miller chaired the NCC's Commission on Religion and Race, which coordinated organized religion’s support for strong civil rights legislation, and jointly sponsored the March on Washington. He led religious delegations that met with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to push for the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1954, he established the Cummins Foundation and in 1957 made an offer to Columbus that the foundation would pay all the architects fees for new public buildings in Columbus. Thus this small Midwestern city has buildings by Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, César Pelli, and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill among others. "Some people have a tombstone at the head of their gravesite or at the foot of it," Columbus resident William Beaver wrote. "Mr. Miller had the whole town as a monument." The American Institute of Architects in 1991 declared Columbus America's sixth most important city in terms of architecture.

The Miller House, presumably his house, which was designed by Eero Saarinen, was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2000.

On February 5 1943, he married Xenia Simons. [http://www.yale.edu/ism/events/XeniaMiller.html] They had three daughters, Margaret, Catherine, Elizabeth, and two sons Hugh and William.

He was active in politics, persuading New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to run for president and in 1972 he supported New York City Mayor John Lindsay's presidential bid.

Miller also served as a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, the Ford Foundation, and was a member of the Yale Corporation, which governs the university.


*Eric Pace. "J. Irwin Miller, 95, Patron of Modern Architecture." "New York Times". August 19, 2004.
*Chris Poynter. "Building a Legacy: Visionary set town apart." Louisville Courier-Journal. August 22, 2004.
*Carol Fouke. "An NCC Founding Father Dies; Led Work on Race, Peace." National Council of Churches News Service. August 18, 2004.

External links

* [http://www.courier-journal.com/localnews/2004/08/22in/A1-architect0822-13076.html Obit in the Louisville Courier-Journal]
* [http://www.columbus.in.us/page.asp?page=Architecture Information on Columbus's architecture]
* [http://www.ncccusa.org/news/04miller.html Obit from the National Council of Churches USA]

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