The many facets and endearing qualities of a nationally known Church of God leader and Anderson civic activist were recounted by family and friends of Dr. T. Franklin Miller, who died in February at 93.
"He was an icon of our time," said Bill Pitts, executive director of United Way of Madison County. Pitts knew Miller not only as a community leader but as the uncle of his wife, Dr. Beverley Pitts. "My sense is there are probably precious few people we can say really exude all the qualities of servant leaders in society, and he is one of them."
Miller's long service to the Church of God included serving as an evangelist and pastor, leader in various national Church of God executive positions, and civic and community leadership in Anderson.
"He was very task-oriented and a good administrator," said his daughter, Sue Spaulding of Anderson. "He never let something wait; he took care of it. He was gentle and quiet, but he could be very forceful."
Dr. James Edwards, president of Anderson University, recalled knowing Miller as a national leader when he first came to college as a student some four decades ago, but he was pleasantly impressed to find Miller taking an interest in him as a student. "I was surprised to find myself knowing this guy," he said.
"I have two memories of Dr. T. Franklin Miller," Edwards continued. "First, I was cleaning the old Missions Building (now the Falls School of Business) as a student employee during my freshman year. He came out and called me into his office and asked me to consider taking a national youth office. I accepted that role at his encouragement.
"Then later as a seminary student, I was appointed to a position in student recruitment at Anderson College. He heard of it and looked me up. He told me, 'I know something like this can eat you alive if you let it. But you need to finish your seminary work and think about the future, not just about taking a job.' So I wrote out a plan to finish seminary in five years instead of three and got through it."
Miller also contacted Edwards when the latter received the unexpected assignment of becoming president of Warner Press at a difficult time in the company's history.
"He was vitally interested in the health of the company of which he used to be general manager," Edwards recalled. "He told me, 'You will be working with real human beings, so be prepared.' He was an incredible source of perspective and encouragement, and he gave me a lot of advice when I needed it."
His son, Tom Miller of Lake Oswego, Ore., recalled that his father had suffered his first heart attack nearly 30 years ago. "He had a full life after that," he said.
"He was a magnificent human being," Pitts pointed out. "His enthusiasm and profound respect for others was contagious. When he'd take on a task, you knew it was going to be a success if at all possible."
Despite his achievements in the public realm, Miller and his wife, Gertie, put family first, Spaulding said.
"When their grandchildren were young, none of them lived in Anderson," she explained. "They went to great lengths to be in relationship with their grandchildren.
"He was a wonderful model, tenderhearted and compassionate," she continued. "He taught us by example. He was so gifted, not only as a minister and a speaker but as a rose gardener, woodworker, fisherman, golfer, and published author."
His last appearance before his final hospitalization for a series of strokes that ended his life came on Feb. 8 at a baby shower for his granddaughter, Christy Boyer, who delivered his second great-grandchild before his death.
"His last gathering was a family gathering," Spaulding said. "The last thing most of us heard him say was, 'What a party!' When we were gathered around his hospital bed, one of us made a comment that if he could talk now, he'd probably be saying, 'Hey, we're all together, let's grab some steaks and have a party.'"