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Donald Miller

Former business executive Donald L. Miller was born in New York on January 10, 1932, to Mamie Johnson and John H. Miller. From 1948 to 1968, Miller served in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of major and earning the Legion of Merit award in his final year. Near retirement from the Army, Miller lived in Maryland and returned to school, receiving his B.A. from the University of Maryland in 1967.

Due to a recommendation from his mother who worked at Inmont Corporation, Miller was hired to work as a special assistant to the president in the human resources area. Miller then left Inmont to work in that same capacity at Seatrain Shipbuilding, helping recruit African American employees. Miller was then recruited to a senior ranking position as deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Richard Nixon, a position he held from December 1971 to January 1973. In 1973, Miller was honored by the Department of Defense for his work with the Distinguished Civilian Award.

From 1973 to 1978, Miller worked in academia as vice president of personnel and management at Columbia University. He then went on to hold executive positions with a number of companies, including International Paper, Con Edison and Dow Jones & Company, where he served as vice president of employee relations from 1986 until 1995. Following his retirement from Dow Jones, Miller entered the entrepreneurial and publishing world when he started Our World News as a high-level African American news publication.

Over the years, Miller has been active with a number of professional organizations, including serving on the board of directors of the Bank of New York and Schering Plough. For twenty years, he was a trustee at Pace University, and since 1981, served as director of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Miller had been married to his wife, Gail Aileen Wallace, since 1981. They have one child, Lynn Ann, and lived in Las Vegas. Miller and his wife also founded Associated Black Charities in New York.

Donald Miller passed away on August 29, 2015.

Accession Number

A2003.214

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/17/2003

Last Name

Miller

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

University of Maryland

Harvard University

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

George Washington High School

First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MIL02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

You Can't Get There From Here.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/10/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Potato Salad

Death Date

8/29/2015

Short Description

Corporate executive and publisher Donald Miller (1932 - 2015 ) is a former executive at Dow Jones & Company. He has also served as Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. After his retirement Miller founded Our World News, a high-level African American news publication.

Employment

United States Army

Inmont Corporation

Seatrain Shipbuilding

Department of Defense

Columbia University

International Paper

ConEdison

Dow Jones & Co.

Our World News

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Donald Miller narrates his photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Donald Miller's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donald Miller lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donald Miller talks about his mother and her family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Donald Miller describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Donald Miller describes his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about various places he lived as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Donald Miller describes the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem, New York City in the 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Donald Miller talks about his mother's decision to relocate the family to the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem, New York in the 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Donald Miller talks about the schools he attended in Greenwich, Connecticut and New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about the schools he attended in Greenwich, Connecticut and New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donald Miller describes his elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donald Miller talks about his lack of direction and guidance as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donald Miller talks about the origins of his U.S. Army career and Colonel Henry Minton Francis

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donald Miller describes a chance encounter that influenced his U.S. Army career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donald Miller talks about the implementation of President Harry Truman's 1947 order to desegregate the U.S. military, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about the implementation of President Harry Truman's 1947 order to desegregate the U.S. military, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Donald Miller explains his decision to enroll in officers' candidate school in the early 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about the progress of people of color in the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donald Miller talks about obtaining skills through successive positions in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donald Miller recalls his U.S. Army service in Germany during the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donald Miller explains his decision to retire from the U.S. Army in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Donald Miller recounts a story from early in his career as deputy assistant secretary of defense

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Donald Miller talks about the relationship between the U.S. military and U.S. presidential administrations of the mid-20th century

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about going to work for Interchemical Corporation in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Donald Miller talks about going to work for Interchemical Corporation in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about Interchemical Corporation and how the company responded to the affirmative action movement of the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donald Miller talks about developing affirmative action proposals for Interchemical Corporation and adjusting to the practices of corporate America

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donald Miller talks about the limited results of his affirmative action programs at Interchemical Corporation in the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donald Miller talks about working as vice president of industrial relations for Seatrain Shipbuilding in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donald Miller recalls his appointment as deputy assistant secretary of defense in 1971 and other black political leaders in the Nixon administration

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donald Miller recalls a meeting between President Richard Nixon and black political appointees

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about working at the U.S. Department of Defense as deputy assistant secretary of defense

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Donald Miller recalls encountering resistance to affirmative action programs on a European inspection tour for the U.S. Department of Defense

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about a meeting between black colonels and the secretaries of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Donald Miller explains his decision to resign as deputy assistant secretary of defense in 1973

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Donald Miller describes the circumstances surrounding his hiring as vice president for personnel management at Columbia University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Donald Miller talks about working as vice president for personnel management for Columbia University in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Donald Miller details a labor dispute between Harlem Hospital and District 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Donald Miller talks about his work at Columbia University and the culture of the institution in the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about working at International Paper and accepting a job offer from Con Edison

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Donald Miller talks about volunteering with the Greater New York Fund

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about volunteering with Greater New York Fund and meeting his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Donald Miller talks about the formation of Associated Black Charities in New York, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Donald Miller talks about the funding structure of United Way and member agencies of Black Associated Charities

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Donald Miller talks about working at Con Edison in New York, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Donald Miller explains how he became a member of the BNY Mellon bank in 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Donald Miller talks about the responsibilities of serving on a corporate board, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Donald Miller talks about the responsibilities of serving on a corporate board, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Donald Miller talks about working at Dow Jones & Company as vice president of employee relations during the 1980s

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Donald Miller talks about proposing a black-oriented news publication to Dow Jones & Company and leaving the company in 1995

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Donald Miller talks about developing Our World News prototypes and the fate of the publication

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Donald Miller describes the aims of Our World News, his African American news publication

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Donald Miller describes how his family has influenced his career success

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Donald Miller considers the success of affirmative action programs in the American business and political sectors

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Donald Miller reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Donald Miller talks about his middle name

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Donald Miller talks about the history of blacks in the U.S. military, Associated Black Charities (ABC), and honorees of ABC

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Donald Miller describes a chance encounter that influenced his U.S. Army career
Donald Miller talks about working at the U.S. Department of Defense as deputy assistant secretary of defense
Transcript
Now, how long were you stationed in [Kitzingen] Germany?$$Just a year.$$Just a year, okay.$$Perhaps not even quite.$$Okay.$$Perhaps not quite a year.$$Okay and that was what year are we in?$$This was 1948, '49 [1949].$$Okay. And then--so, you go there at that time and then--but you're now, a new world is sort of opening up of things that you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, exactly.$$You know, you had talked about wanting to--so, and what are learning about discipline and structure?$$Well, you're learning a lot of things. You know that you're in an environment in which you are expected to perform at a certain level and that your behavior has to be acceptable in ways that perhaps have heretofore not been known to you. And I was not a very adept student. I was very difficult and was always finding some little trouble to get into, not being at the right place at the right time or doing something I wasn't supposed to do, but there were tolerances that people had for reasons, again, that I don't understand, but I can recall in one instance while I was in Minton's [Henry Francis Minton] company. I was sent back to the United States on an early rotation, as they call it; and I think that they had sort of given up on me, and they had decided that maybe it would be better if I were not in the service, but when I was at Bremerhaven, Germany, waiting to board a ship to come back to the United States, I had to go through an interview process, and there was a young, white soldier who was doing the interview and he asked me a question, he said, "You know, how would you like to go back to school and become a classification and assignment specialist?" And I said, "What's that?" And he said, "It's what I'm doing now." And I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I'd like that." And this young man, name I do not know, had such an incredibly enormous impact on my life because when I came back, instead of coming back and being discharged, I was sent off to a school, where I learned a lot about administration, and it was from there that my enlisted career began to take off. It was an epiphany without a doubt, and I mention this to you because it is so important for people to understand that turning points in one's life are not necessarily defined or determined by you but often by others who see things that you do not see or cannot see. And they are very impactful. This gentleman, whoever he is, God knows I'd love to be able to find him and say, thank you, but I can't and the only way that I can say thank you is by trying to do something like that for others that I have run across from time to time. It was a very, very interesting time. It really was.$$Now, where did you do your training then as a classif- you went to--?$$Yeah, that was at, then Camp Lee, Virginia, now Fort Lee.$$Okay.$$This was, again, in 1949. As a matter of fact, my dear and good friend, [HM] General Harry Brooks, whom I think you can interview one of these days, was there at that time as a young lieutenant. We did not know each other at that time.$So talk about what you do you know, and it's one thing working for, you know, the U.S. Army. It's another thing working for the U.S. Department of Defense.$$Absolutely.$$So what are you--and it's probably you're learning things that you, you know--$$Oh, yeah. I'm learning, I'm learning stuff like you can't believe. I mean this is an experience on an entirely different level. I mean I am now in a situation--deputy assistant secretaries carry a three star equivalent rank and I am in an entirely different world. I am being exposed to things as deputy assistant secretary that I was never exposed to when I was on active duty as a young officer, but what I learned very quickly is the following: number one again now, I'm seeing from a different prospective that the [U.S.] military at the senior most levels and the Defense Department at the senior most levels is a very political place, no pun intended. You have to understand the name of the game, the rules of the road, you got to understand the players. It's all very, very different. The politics are being played all day, every day by everyone. You learn that. You learn that what is written is not always what is practiced, and what is practiced is not always written; and this is a very interesting thing to understand. Power points are not as readily discernible because while people have rank, it's the people with the reach that have the impact, not necessarily those with the rank. We had an assignment that was very important. At the time I was there, we had to rewrite the Uniform Code of Military Justice and while this is generally a function that would accrue to the legal people, it fell to my department because I had a young man by the name of [Curtis] Curt Smothers, who was my deputy for military who had been a young captain in the [U.S.] Army, who had really challenged one of the four star generals over in Germany on some issues having to do with race relations. He was a judge in the Judge Advocate General's Corps and he challenged the general. And there was a big brouhaha and he won. He prevailed. And so he prevailed, but he had to retire or resign and [Melvin] Mel Laird who was then the secretary of defense asked him to come in and to be my deputy and it was with Curt that we rewrote the Uniform Code of Military Justice as it pertained to non-judicial punishment.