J. Jefferson Miller II dies

Historians in the News

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.

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