I thought it curious a while back when I looked up from a table where I was signing books and there was Senate President Mike Miller, wanting his newly purchased copy autographed. My book had nothing to do with Maryland, but Miller's presence suggested a truth about the senator beyond the respect he showed for his constituents.
Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, who died on Jan. 15 at 78, is recalled for his huge life: his forever leadership of the Maryland state Senate; his tactics of rewarding friends and crushing enemies; his fingerprints on gambling and Maryland public policies for decades; and values that by today's standards might better define him as a "Republicrat," rather than one of the nation's longest-serving Democratic power-brokers.
We add to the list Miller's love of books, a departure from the Twitter politicians of today.
Miller read religiously, sometimes three and four books at a time, usually history and biographies. The substance of a book was never far from his mind. I'd ask what he was reading and he'd recount excitedly part of a chapter or a recent discovery in an obscure volume.
For him books were currency. A while back, he'd noticed references to his heavy-handed ways in editorials of New Bay Times/Bay Weekly, the paper our family started. We'd called him "Boss Miller" or something snarky.
For the paper's 5th birthday, in 1998, he sent a card, and a book: Pendergast! — a biography of Thomas J. Pendergast, the legendary Kansas City political boss from the early 1900s.
"Next time you write about bossism, look to Missouri," he wrote.
He added: "Seriously, it's a good read!"
Miller will be remembered for his commitment to education. Six years ago in the Maryland Statehouse he spoke of the underpinning of learning — reading.
On Read Across America Day, Miller posed with Cat in the Hat, visiting from the Dr. Seuss children's book.
"As an avid reader, and as the son, brother, and father of teachers, I know how important reading is, and I urge you to join me in celebrating this occasion by picking up a book and reading, and sharing that love of reading with your children," he said.