J. Jefferson Miller II, 80, historian

September 27, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

J. Jefferson Miller II, a former Maryland Historical Society director who was earlier a glass and ceramics curator for the Smithsonian Institution, died of a stroke Friday at his vacation home in Charlevoix, Mich. The Ruxton resident was 80.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of J. Jefferson Miller Jr., a Hecht Co. executive who led the city's downtown redevelopment with the Charles Center and Inner Harbor projects.

The younger Mr. Miller was raised in Pikesville, and enlisted in the Army shortly after his 1942 graduation from the Friends School. A radio carrier, he served in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded near a bridge on the Rhine River at Cologne. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Mr. Miller wrote in a memoir that he was most proud of his Combat Infantryman's Badge because "it was a symbol of the special unglamorous brotherhood of the everyday GIs who fought as American combat infantrymen."

After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in history from the Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from the University of Maryland, where he served on the staff of the Law Review and was awarded the school's Order of the Coif. From 1953 to 1960, he practiced law in downtown Baltimore at Frank Bernstein Conaway & Goldman, and was later an assistant U.S. attorney.

In what Mr. Miller described as "an abrupt about-face," he took a fellowship at the Henry F. DuPont Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Del. He studied American decorative arts and completed a master's degree in American civilization from the University of Delaware. For his thesis, he detailed the design and construction of Baltimore's Washington Monument - his work was later incorporated into a pamphlet published by the city's old Peale Museum.

For the next 20 years, he was curator of ceramics and glass at the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology, now the Museum of American History.

He was a founder of the American Ceramics Circle and member of the American Folk Art Society. He was the author of books, scholarly articles and catalogs, published here and in England. Upon his retirement, he was named curator emeritus of the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology.

He lived in Chevy Chase for more than 20 years, before returning to Baltimore as director of the Maryland Historical Society in 1984, a post he held for 4 1/2 years.

"He was a brilliant man, one the brightest people I've ever known," said Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr., a lifelong friend. "He had magnificent taste for wonderful antiquities, yet was always a modest and unassuming person."

He served on committees at the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, Homewood House at Johns Hopkins University, and the Maryland Council for the Humanities.

Mr. Miller was a conservationist and enjoyed fly fishing in streams in Colorado, Michigan and Idaho. He said he had a rule, which he "religiously" followed, to "release all fish, unharmed and only to use flies with debarbed hooks."

Mr. Miller collected antiques and was considered an expert on American folk art, Anglo-American historical china and Chinese export porcelain.

He read American and English history.

He belonged to the Suburban and Maryland clubs.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 25 at Druid Ridge Cemetery, Old Court and Reisterstown roads.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Anne Stuart Weiler; four sons, J. Stuart Miller of Reedsville, Pa., Andrew Frank Miller of Potomac, Thomas Jefferson Miller of Portland, Ore., and Joshua Weiler Miller of Glencoe, Ill.; two daughters, Pamela Miller Himmelrich of Baltimore and Tracy Jo Barker of Boerne, Texas; a brother, Milton H. Miller Sr. of Owings Mills; a sister, Cynthia Miller Rosenwald of Pikesville; and 13 grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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