Gov. Larry Hogan (R), whom Miller used to babysit, recalled a combative and charming statesman devoted to the Maryland Senate. His voice cracking with emotion, Hogan called Miller, who died Jan. 15 after a two-year battle with prostate cancer, equally powerful as an ally and political enemy.
“Within these historic walls, his indomitable spirit will live on forever, along with the values that he cherished and lived by: respect for tradition, of the separation of powers, the dignity of every Marylander, and the greatness of the state of Maryland that he loved so much,” the governor said.
Along with Hogan and his wife, Yumi, members of the Maryland congressional delegation, the presiding officers of the General Assembly and former state senators were among the first to walk down a red-roped aisle that led to Miller’s flag-draped casket.
Each stopped to offer condolences to Miller’s wife, Patti, and one of his five children. The casket was surrounded by nearly a dozen floral arrangements, including one in the shape of a broken heart. Another, a terrapin, honored Miller’s beloved alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Nearly three hours of eulogies followed in the Senate chamber, where Miller served nearly 50 years before stepping down at the end of December at the age of 78. Admirers and onetime adversaries spoke of his twinkling blue eyes, his cunning wit and his discourses on lesser-known chapters of Maryland history. They also recalled Miller’s less public, kindhearted side, which ran counter to a public persona of ruling with an iron grip.
His successor, 37-year-old Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), described a man of duality: “the country boy” and “the kingmaker of Annapolis.”
Former state Sen. Bobby Neall, a longtime friend partially responsible for the massive Senate office building named in Miller’s honor, said he “envied his command of his profanity.”
“It was a true art form,” Neall said. “He would use all the words, in all the parts of speech . . . into poetry. It was symphonic.”
Neal recounted a Miller dealmaking maxim that was a balm to allies and troubling to foes: “Mike often said, ‘I cannot predict the future, but I can tell you what’s going to happen.’ Mike made it happen, over and over and over.”
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) recalled a thick dossier that Miller kept on the state’s best high school athletes and said he enlisted Peters to help personally recruit them to the state’s flagship campus in College Park.
Miller’s final visit to the State House began on Thursday night, when his casket was escorted by state troopers to stops throughout his district — including at Surrattsville High School and his law office, both in Prince George’s County, and his hometown of Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County — before arriving in Annapolis. His casket was carried by troopers who served along with him and was placed under the State House dome.
U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) said Friday that Miller’s death “marks the end of an era. . . . He was one-of-a-kind, and I doubt if there will ever be another from that mold.”
State budget Secretary David R. Brinkley, a Republican and former state senator, called Miller “the lion of the Senate,” and said Miller taught him more about Maryland history during the lulls in Senate debates than he ever learned in school.
In addition to Mfume, Maryland’s other Democratic members of Congress also visited the State House to pay respects to Miller — including Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Jamie Raskin, Anthony G. Brown and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, all of whom served in the legislature during Miller’s tenure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who grew up in Baltimore, came by Friday afternoon.
Miller was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1970, winning a seat in the Senate four years later. He was in office through eight Maryland governors; during certain debates, many argue, he wielded more power than the chief executives.
Miller remained in office for nearly two years after his cancer diagnosis, though he stepped down as Senate president last year. When he gave up his Senate seat on Dec. 23, he said his health was failing and he no longer had the strength to serve.
“He was a master politician, we know that. He was also a psychologist and sociologist,” recalled Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who, like many, first considered Miller an adversary and later a good friend. “He knew what you were thinking, what your emotions were, the button that pushed you. And he also knew what moved people and groups of people. . . . If Mike said, ‘We’ll get it done,’ he’d get it done.”
Miller’s family will have a private Mass at St. John the Evangelist in Clinton on Saturday morning, which will be live-streamed on the church’s Facebook page, followed by a private interment.