It was quite the sendoff for a country boy.
Marking the passing of Maryland’s longtime state Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., was a three-day journey covering three counties with verbal accolades that were varied yet all intertwined.
Miller, who had been diagnosed with cancer, died on Jan. 15, almost two years to the day when he publicly announced he was fighting the disease and had been given a poor prognosis.
Six days later, a hearse escorted by retired Maryland State Police troopers rode through Clinton, Dunkirk, Chesapeake Beach and then to Annapolis, where the iconic political figure lay in state last Friday.
At high noon, the Maryland Senate convened to share stories of the man who had been a part of the chamber for nearly half-a-century.
“His impact on the Senate is truly historic,” said Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who called Miller “my lifelong friend.”
Indeed, “history” was a frequent theme included in remarks.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore city) labeled Miller “a voracious reader. For Mike, history was a way to study people.”
Ferguson said Miller went from being “a country boy from Clinton to kingmaker in Annapolis.”
Sen. Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) noted that Miller formally resigned from the state senate on Dec. 23, 2020, the 237th anniversary of Gen. George Washington’s resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, an event that took place in Annapolis.
There were also praises for Miller’s evenhanded leadership in the Senate.
“He would listen to the minority party,” said Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel). “That’s why Annapolis is not like Washington.”
Sen. George C. Edwards (R-Allegany, Garrett, Washington) said when Miller would visit his Edwards’ Western Maryland district he was aware of the region’s heritage and culture.
“He knew more about places in Maryland than the people who lived there,” Edwards said.
Many senators fought back tears as they recalled Miller’s softer side, his sharing stories of his family, and what lawmaker, Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Carroll, Howard), called “lessons in strength and grace.”
Perhaps the most emotional remarks came from newly sworn-in Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles), who succeeded Miller as the district’s upper chamber representative.
“He mentored me,” said Jackson, who recalled one of the last things Miller told him was to always be responsive to his constituents. “Stay honored to serve them,” Jackson recounted.
The Maryland Senate wasn’t the only political body to mark Miller’s passing. During the Jan. 21 meeting of the Chesapeake Beach mayor and town council, the panel voted unanimously to establish Dec. 3 (Miller’s birthday) as “Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Day” in the bayside town.
“He was the greatest advocate for our town,” Mayor Pat “Irish” Mahoney said. “He was a lion in Annapolis. Here, he was Papa Bear.”
“Senator Miller has been part of the fabric of this town,” said Councilman Gregory Morris.
In a press release, members of the Calvert County Board of Education paid tribute to Miller.
“A lover of history, he annually attended the [Calvert public schools’] History Fair, where students selected from each county middle and high school presented historical research projects focused on the National History Day annual topic,” board president Inez N. Claggett stated.
“He truly valued education, gave a voice to the voiceless and showed a loving commitment to Southern Maryland,” board member Antoine White said in the release.
“Senator Miller did not forget his local constituency in spite of his vast responsibilities as senate president,” wrote Calvert public schools’ Superintendent Daniel D. Curry. “He had my number and he called me often to get more information or to advocate for a member of the community who called on him.”
Miller’s longtime friend, the Rev. W. Ronald Jameson, was the main celebrant at Saturday’s funeral mass at St. John the Evangelist in Clinton. Jameson, who is currently assigned to St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., recalled coming to “Millerland” as a young priest. He called Miller a “country boy Democrat” who worked well with Republicans.
Two of Miller’s children who followed him into the legal profession — District Judge Thomas V. Miller III and daughter/law partner Melissa Ann Miller — also made remarks during the funeral service.
The son described his father as a University of Maryland athletics fanatic who tossed red pens around a room when he was angry. “My dad, my hero, my mentor,” he said, explaining his father was a master of his profession and his life because, “he knew how history worked.”
“He was always adored,” said Melissa Miller, who lovingly described her father as a husband deeply devoted to his wife, Patti, a father who reveled in his daughter’s prowess as a poker player, a grandfather who savored frolicking with his grandchildren, and a man with eclectic tastes in music — everything from Broadway show tunes to Motown. She noted a twangy country song was playing in the background as her father drew his final breath Jan. 15 at the family home in Calvert County on the bay.
While Miller rubbed elbows with several national political figures in his lifetime, the constituents of every age group, regardless of economic status, seemed to have been the ones given most of Miller’s attention during his public life.
Said State Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s), “He had a heart for the little people.”