Joseph Irwin Miller, who built Cummins from a family business into a Fortune 500 company, has died at age 95. He turned Cummins into a company with more than 25,000 employees in 131 countries.
As a boy in growing up in Columbus, Indiana, Miller spent many hours in the workshop of Clessie Cummins, the diesel engine promoter who founded Cummins Engine Company in 1919 and who had been the Miller family chauffeur. With degrees from Yale and Oxford universities and after a brief apprenticeship at a family-owned grocery chain in San Francisco, Miller went to work for Cummins in 1934 as the company’s second general manager. He became executive vice president of the company in 1942.
Miller set forth Cummins primary strategy in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming president in 1945 and chairman of the board in 1951. Under his direction the company set a high priority on research that would come up with new diesel technology. Cummins’ sales increased from $20 million in 1946 to more than $100 million a decade later.
During the 1950s and 1960s, he also transformed his hometown into a city of architectural wonders, earning it the nickname “Athens of the Prairie.” Miller received numerous awards, appointments to influential national boards and acclaim for Cummins’ good deeds.
He also participated in social reform. As president of the National Council of Churches from 1960 to 1963, Miller shaped the council into one of the strongest supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. He helped organize the 1963 civil rights march in Washington and the National Conference on Race and Religion the same year.
He advised presidents of the United States as well as leaders of other countries, from John F. Kennedy to Nelson Mandela. Esquire ran his profile on the magazine’s cover with the headline: “This man ought to be the next president of the United States.”