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Melvin Miller

Newspaper publisher and editor Melvin B. Miller was born on July 22, 1934 in Boston, Massachusetts. Miller grew up in Boston’s middle-class Roxbury neighborhood and graduated from Boston Latin School. He then enrolled at Harvard College and graduated from there in 1956 with his A.B. degree. Following a six month stint as an executive trainee at Aetna Insurance in Hartford, Connecticut, Miller was drafted and served for two years in the U.S. Army. He went on to enroll at Columbia University Law School and earned his J.D. degree from there in 1964. Miller was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and the Federal Bar.

Upon graduation, Miller joined the U.S. Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. In 1965, he founded the Bay State Banner and served as the newspaper’s publisher, editor, and chief executive officer. In 1973, the Massachusetts Banking Commission appointed Miller as the conservator and chief executive officer of the Unity Bank and Trust Company, Boston’s first minority bank. In 1977, Boston Mayor Kevin W. White named him as one of the three commissioners of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Miller became Chairman of the Commission in 1980. Miller then became a founding partner in the corporate law firm of Fitch, Miller, and Tourse where he practiced law from 1981 to 1991. He also served as the vice president and general counsel of WHDH-TV, an affiliate of the Central Broadcasting Station, from 1982 to 1993. Miller was a director of the United States-South Africa Leadership Exchange Program (USSALEP). He has written editorials for The Boston Globe, The Pilot, and Boston Magazine, and is the author of How to Get Rich When You Ain’t Got Nothing.

Miller is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Harvard Club of Boston, and the St. Botolph Club. Miller is a director of OneUnited Bank and MassINC. He is also a trustee of the Huntington Theatre Company and a trustee emeritus of Boston University.

Miller received the Award of Excellence from the Art Director’s Club of Boston in 1970. The New England Press Association awarded Miller the First Prize in General Excellence and the Second Prize in Make-up & Typography in 1970. Miller is a recipient of the Annual Achievement Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people. Miller received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Suffolk University in 1984 and an Honorary Doctor Humane Letters degree from Emerson College in 2010.

Melvin B. Miller was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 24, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.162

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/24/2013 |and| 4/27/2013

Last Name

Miller

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Occupation
Schools

Boston Latin School

Harvard University

Columbia Law School

David A. Ellis Elementary School

Henry Lee Higginson Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Melvin

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

MIL09

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

God Dwells Within You As You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/22/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

USA

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Newspaper editor Melvin Miller (1934 - ) was the founder, publisher and editor of the Bay State Banner, a weekly newspaper advocating the interests of Greater Boston’s African American community.

Employment

The Bay State Banner

Unity Bank and Trust Company

Fitch, Miller & Touse

WHDH TV, Channel 7

United States Department of Justice

Aetna Life & Casualty

NYC insurance company

Public Schools

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin Miller's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller talks about his maternal grandfather's musical background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller describes his maternal grandmother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller talks about the African American community in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller talks about his Uncle Charlie

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller describes his family connection to the black loyalist colony in Nova Scotia, Canada

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller describes his father's career at the U.S. Post Office Department

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller talks about his parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller lists his siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller describes his experiences at Henry L. Higginson Elementary School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller remembers the Washington Park neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller remembers his high school classmate, Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller describes his experiences at the Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller talks about the academic rigor of the Boston Latin School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller recalls the prevalence of bullying at the Boston Latin School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller recalls his experiences at the St. Mark Congregational Church in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller remembers his extracurricular activities at the Boston Latin School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller remembers his SAT scores

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller describes his involvement with the NAACP in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller recalls his classmates at Harvard University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller recalls his classmates at Harvard University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller talks about the H-Block Gang

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller describes his experiences at Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller talks about his academic difficulties at Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller talks about the African American faculty at Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller talks about Edward Brooke's political career, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller talks about Edward Brooke's political career, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller describes the African American community at Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller remembers his graduation from Harvard University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller describes how he came to work at the Aetna Life and Casualty Company in Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller talks about his U.S. military service

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller talks about his maternal family's German ancestry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller recalls his decision to attend Columbia Law School in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller remembers investigating insurance claims in New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller recalls a confrontation with the New York City Police Department, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller recalls a confrontation with the New York City Police Department, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller remembers Adolf A. Berle, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller remembers Adolf A. Berle, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller recalls becoming an assistant U.S. attorney general

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Melvin Miller talks about the founding of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin Miller's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller describes the start of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller remembers Charles Stewart

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller talks about William Monroe Trotter

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller remembers the early years of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller recalls the first editor of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller describes the political climate of the 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller talks about the Moynihan Report of 1965, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller talks about the Moynihan Report of 1965, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller talks about the urban renewal program in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller talks about Edward Brooke's early election losses

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller recalls the start of Operation Exodus in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller remembers the busing crisis in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller remembers Louise Day Hicks

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller remembers the busing crisis in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller remembers the violence during the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller recalls the opening of the William Monroe Trotter School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller talks about the Bay State Banner's audience

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller describes the Bay State Banner's financial challenges

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller remembers the demonstration at the Grove Hall welfare center in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller describes his efforts to increase black representation in the media

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller recalls his involvement with the Unity Bank and Trust Company, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller recalls his involvement with the Unity Bank and Trust Company, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller describes his role in the standardization of the welfare system

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller talks about the construction of the State Street Bank Building in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller recalls running for U.S. Representative from Massachusetts in 1972

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller recalls founding the law firm of Fitch, Miller and Tourse

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller talks about the Bay State Banner's competitors

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller describes his involvement with WHDH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller remembers partnering with Jobs Clearing House, Inc.

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller describes his support for minority hiring at the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Melvin Miller recalls serving as general counsel to WHDH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Melvin Miller talks about the Bay State Banner's website

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller describes the staff of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller talks about the National Newspaper Publishers Association

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller describes his involvement with the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller talks about the impact of the internet on the newspaper industry

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller describes his plans for the future of the Bay State Banner

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Melvin Miller recalls his mentorship of young men in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Melvin Miller talks about the problems in the education system

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Melvin Miller remembers his mentorship of Tony Rose

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Melvin Miller describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Melvin Miller describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Melvin Miller reflects upon his life

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Melvin Miller describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Melvin Miller talks about his family

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Melvin Miller reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$2

DATape

6$10

DAStory

5$8

DATitle
Melvin Miller recalls a confrontation with the New York City Police Department, pt. 2
Melvin Miller describes his support for minority hiring at the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company
Transcript
So they formed a circle around me and pulled out their clubs and decided they were gonna beat me down. I said, "Wait a minute, before you do anything, I want you to know that I submit peacefully to arrest. And if you have a--if I violated a criminal law and you wanna arrest me, I submit peacefully to arrest. You have that? It's a clear statement right now. I'm not resisting arrest. Do you wanna arrest me?" They didn't even answer that. Then they started swinging their clubs, and then I--that's when my karate went into effect. It would--I'll never forget this. Is a--it was a--it was probably the most extensive use--one of the most extensive uses I've ever--I ever had to make of it, and--but I had a strategy. And I said first of all, I'm, I'm not gonna hurt these guys because some fool will pull a gun, and once the gun comes out everything goes wild. So what I did is I just took a stand. And I know how to move and prevent them from striking me, and I might just use my hand to push them off or something. There had to be four to six cops. No, there were more than four. There must have been the six 'cause there, there, there were lots of 'em, and it was amazing. If, if you watch them, it was almost like the keystone ca- police 'cause they were falling all over themselves 'cause I would--I mean, I--you know, to tell you the truth, I was pretty good, you know. And so I started--you know, I moved and they fell all over the place. Now I told them that I was waiting for a friend, and then while this fight was going on she came out. She said, "Oh my god! What's going on here?" And I said to her, "They didn't believe, didn't believe you were coming" (laughter). And so it was funny. These--half of the policemen were on the ground because they took a swing at me inbalance- you know, when you take a swing sometimes at a person you think you're gonna hit, you put too much weight on it and you don't hit; you keep going. Well that--a lot of that happened. And so there were two still standing, and the other policeman--I said--I walked by him and I said, "Why'd you allow something--," I said, "somebody could have really been hurt here." And they looked at me, didn't say anything, and I left. But isn't that awful? But guess what? I had in my breast pocket the federal department of justice [U.S. Department of Justice] identification with my photo and everything. What do you think would have happened if I'd have shown that to the first policeman? He'd have backed up, said, "Sorry, Mr. Miller [HistoryMaker Melvin Miller]." I said--but I identified with my brother too much. I said the man in the street doesn't have these things, and you don't have to show all this identification to be able to walk the streets (unclear). I had a three piece suit on. What did I look like, a thug? Come on. And I, I--you know, I just simply wasn't gonna tolerate it. And so--and if, if necessary I would have hurt them rather than let them hurt me.$$Well, some of the stories out of New--New York [New York] are--you know.$$Yeah.$$You, you might have been lucky that you didn't get shot, you know, but.$$Well, they were lucky because I don't think they could have beaten me. I mean, you, you had to remember, I was a younger man, you know. I was not the old man you're looking at, at that time (laughter). But that just shows the kind of world we live in and, and I was gonna--I was gonna--I was, I was sort of hoping in a sense that I would get arrested all the way down. And then--what, what--if--once I got arrested, I would--they would have had to come up with a charge. Then I'd laid it on 'em. I said, "Okay." I'd call the press. All of a sudden we got a lawsuit.$Another aspect that was really important at that time is a telephone company, New England Telephone [New England Telephone and Telegraph Company], which is now Verizon [Verizon New England, Inc.], didn't have any blacks at all in any serious position in the company. There was one guy I know who might have been some kind of engineer in the office, but it was a totally all white organization. But what had happened is that the, the chairman was about to retire, and he was terrified because somebody had filed an antidiscrimination lawsuit against Southern Bell [Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company; AT&T Inc.]. Now, telephone companies have to--telephone companies have to get approval and get licenses from the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], which imposes certain nondiscrimination rules and regulations against them. So he thought that sin- the situation was bad up here that it was just inevitable that somebody would come and bring a campaign. So I took adva- took advantage of this and met with them, and we started running a campaign to, to begin to hire blacks. And the most amazing thing is that when I first did it, I had a delegation of blacks come to my office and tell me that, that it was an abomination that I would run ads [in the Bay State Banner] from the New England telephone company when I should have known they don't hire blacks. And I, I said, "Yeah, but," I said, "we're going to now." He said, "No, what they're doing now is they're just--they're just trying to cover their butts and, and you guys are gonna make some money and make us look foolish. We go down there, they'll turn us out." And I said, "No, they won't, so we'll go down together and, and we'll set up employment offices." So I went down and said, "Look, you gotta set up employment offices in the black community; you guys have created a situation which is very bad," talking to the telephone company. And they understood it and they did it. The only--the only sad thing about it is that the campaign was so effective that it wasn't long before they found it unnecessary to run those big ads (laughter). I guess they found it unnecessary to run those big ads anymore and so we lost that revenue. But to show you how severe the resistance is, the whites' unions who are running the company at the levels that we are trying to get people employed, those white unions went on--they took a strike, rather than agree to the terms of--see, what they had done is they set up an employment ladder where you had to start at this level and then move up to A to B, C, D, and then you move up. We, we, we rejected that and I insisted that the company reject that, because I said you have to take in people who are qualified who had collater- had collateral experience at some other place. They don't have to be at the telephone company. Let's say they came from another telephone company doing the same thing. According to your system, they'd still have to start at this low level. That's crazy. And so that's, that's how we had to break the union to do this, and, and the union took a strike. The interesting thing is that when the Boston [Massachusetts] papers wrote about it, they never understood the nature of the strike. They never got it right. Now, I didn't write about it in the right kind of way because it would have been impolitic. You know what I mean? I would have had to--it, it, it would have--it would have held the telephone company up to a line of criticism, which we were--we had already moved beyond. The executives didn't care about it because it didn't affect them. But once it was really pointed out to them, they were willing to take a strike to stop it, and I wasn't--you, you see what I mean?$$Okay.$$So this--so that was--to me, there was a lot of work like that changing the environment in Boston that, that we were able to do.