May Miller Sullivan, 96, a Washington poet, playwright and educator whose literary career began in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, died of pneumonia Feb. 8 at her home in Washington.

The poet, known professionally as May Miller, was the last survivor of five children of Kelly Miller, a nationally known author and philosopher who was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of sociology at Howard University.

She grew up in faculty housing on the Howard University campus in a period when the university was a national gathering place for black artists and intellectuals. Writers and educators W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington were house guests of her father. Poet Langston Hughes was among Ms. Miller's friends and contemporaries.

Ms. Miller, a native Washingtonian and a graduate of Dunbar High School and Howard University, did postgraduate study in literature at American University and Columbia University.

For 20 years, she commuted daily to Baltimore to teach English, speech and drama at Frederick Douglass High School. In 1945, she retired because of heart ailments.

During the 1960s, she was arts coordinator for the D.C. public schools under the auspices of the Washington Commission on the Arts. She also served on the Folger Library Advisory Committee.

Encouraged by her father, for whom Kelly Miller Junior High School in Washington is named, Ms. Miller began writing poetry as a child.

"He taught us poetry before we knew what we were saying," she recalled in 1976. "I've run across lines in poems that he quoted. And to this day, I don't know whether he made up some of the stories he told us or if they were South Carolina folklore."

After graduating first in her class at Howard University in 1920, she set out to become a playwright and poet. For periods in that era, she lived in Harlem, and at other times, she traveled there from Washington with Hughes and poet Countee Cullen for literary gatherings.

She won third place in a drama competition sponsored by Opportunity magazine, and several of her plays were produced on college campuses. But her writing never brought her celebrity status. That did not trouble her, Ms. Miller said. "If out of a silence I can fill that silence with a word that will conjure up an image, then I have succeeded."

After she stopped teaching in Baltimore in 1945, Ms. Miller redoubled her poetry writing efforts. Her verse was published in magazines and in several collections, the most recent of which, "Collected Poems of May Miller," appeared in 1989.

She wrote with feeling about people and places in and around Washington and about memories and folk tales from her childhood. In the 1970s and 1980s, she often read her poems aloud at formal and informal settings.

One of her favorites was a poem titled "Pond Lament," which was influenced by stories about croaking frogs and which she liked to deliver in a frog-croaking style.

Whoo'll dig my grave when I die?

Not I. Not I.

Whoo'll pay my debts when I die?

Not I. Not I.

Her poetry, Ms. Miller said, followed no standards other than her own. "I'm not sure you can look at my poetry and say, I bet that's hers.' It's not all iambic pentameter but something that strikes a flow. You do what you have to do, and you get a certain amount of satisfaction from that."

Her husband of 41 years, John "Bud" Sullivan, died in 1982.

There are no immediate survi vors. MELVIN W. SNEED Capitol Hill Aide

Melvin W. Sneed, 82, a researcher and consultant in welfare legislation who retired in 1968 as minority clerk to the Joint Committee on the Reorganization of Congress, died of cancer Feb. 8 at South Miami (Fla.) Hospital. He was a resident of Miami, and he had lived in Washington from 1940 to 1968.

Mr. Sneed was a native of Springfield, Mo. He was a graduate of the University of Missouri, where he also received a master's degree in business and public administration. He served in the Navy during World War II.

Early in his career, he was director of research and statistics for the Missouri State Social Security Commission and a researcher with the Brookings Institution. He was chief of coordination and planning with the Veterans Administration and then joined the staff of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.

He also was minority clerk to the House Committee on Education and Labor, director of laws and legislation in the office of education and assistant director of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

He was a director of the Journal of the Palm Society.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Phyllis Plowman Sneed of Miami; four children, Sally Betts of Punta Gorda, Fla., Sarah Morlang of San Antonio, John Sneed of Washington and Stephanie Dullum of Honolulu; and three grandchildren.