Mike Miller, longest-serving Maryland Senate president, dies at 78

Thomas V. Mike Miller
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller stands in the House of Delegates chamber as he waits to listen to Gov. Larry Hogan deliver his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller died on Friday afternoon, a statement from his family said. He was 78.

Miller “passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones” at about 4:25 p.m., the statement said.

He was the longest-serving Senate president in Maryland history, stepping down as president in 2019 after 33 years, and resigning from the Senate last month after more than 45.

He had been battling cancer.

“I thought I could continue on,” Miller said during a Zoom news conference in December. “My mind is fine, but the cancer is in all my bones.”

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland flags to fly at half-staff until Miller’s burial to honor his life and legacy.

“Even as he waged a hard-fought battle with cancer, I was blessed to continue to benefit from Mike’s wisdom and trademark humor. He was, in every sense, a lion of the Senate,” Hogan said in a statement.

Senate President Bill Ferguson in a statement called Miller “a champion of the Senate of Maryland” who worked in the General Assembly for more than 50 years as a staffer and a member of the House and Senate.

“It is impossible to think of the Maryland Senate and not think of Mike,” Ferguson said, because of his longevity and “because each member of the Senate has his or her own Mike story.”

He said Miller mentored many senators, and they could always count on him “to truly listen to their concerns.”

“There are thousands of former senators, delegates, staffers and constituents in the 27th District that he has impacted for the better, and who each have their own Mike Miller story,” Ferguson added. “I expect we’ll hear many of them in the days and weeks ahead …”

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said called his dear friend a “giant” and noted his longevity.

“Governors have come and gone, but Mike Miller was a historic figure and force of nature, always pushing our state forward. His legacy of results for Marylanders is unmatched,” Van Hollen said.

Maryland Matters’ Bruce DePuyt echoed Van Hollen’s statement, describing Miller as a “larger-than-life presenced in the state house.”

Miller kept his eyes on the state as a whole, tracking demographic changes and trends.

For example, DePuyt said Miller allowed the bill on gay marriage to come forward — even though he voted against it personally — because he had a sense of history, timing, his party and above all the center.

“He was a capital D Democrat,” but had a “keen sense of the center,” DePuyt said, adding that Miller understood that Maryland had conservative and liberal pockets.

Ferguson added that resigning was “one of the most difficult decisions of Mike’s life,” and one that he made so that “his district could have the best representation possible.”

“At his core, Mike was who you saw,” the Senate president added. “He was a hard worker, he was ethical, and he brought love of policy areas – especially education and the Chesapeake Bay – to the Senate. As a result of his tenacity and spirit, he was able to shepherd vitally important legislation to the Senate floor, through the House, and to the Governor for signature.”

The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners said in a statement that Miller’s accomplishments on behalf of District 27 and all Marylanders were unmatched and their effects will be felt for many years to come.

Miller is survived by his wife, five children and 15 grandchildren.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino, Kate Ryan and Colleen Kelleher contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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