Maryland Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a long-revered voice among state lawmakers, announced his resignation Wednesday after 45 years, citing his ongoing battle with cancer.
Miller, 78, presided over the Senate for 33 years before he passed the gavel last year to Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).
“My heart and mind remain strong, but my body has grown too weak to meet the demands of another legislative session,” Miller wrote in a letter Tuesday morning to Ferguson. “I must now retire from the august body of the Senate of Maryland and take my leave of public life.”
After Miller announced in October 2019 he would step down as Senate president, his colleagues created the title “president emeritus” in his honor. In addition, a portrait of Miller hangs inside the Senate chamber inside the State House in Annapolis.
A devout Catholic with moderate views, Miller challenged his Democratic colleagues on approving same-sex marriage and the death penalty. However, he did lead the effort to legalize gambling in the state with a casino resort at National Harbor near the Virginia border.
During a briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Miller said he hoped part of his legacy will be remembered for “hard work, love the [Chesapeake] Bay, love of education.”
“As a result, positive legislation flowed to the [Senate] floor and across the House and with the governor’s signature,” he said. “I study history. I grew up before television. My aunts and uncles for Christmas and birthdays would give me books and I would read and study. I’m able to find alternatives to move forward.”
Miller, who represented District 27 in southern Maryland that includes portions of Prince George’s County, helped bring money to build the new regional medical center in Largo.
“His resignation is pretty significant,” said county State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “He has been very instrumental in Prince George’s County in getting resources for roads, for schools and infrastructure the county needs. Those are going to be big shoes to fill.”
Miller grew up in Prince George’s County and honed his education in the jurisdiction as a graduate of Surrattsville High School in Clinton, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in College Park in 1964 and a law degree from his alma mater in 1967.
Miller became first elected to the House of Delegates in 1970 and then to the Senate in 1974. He served as the state’s and nation’s longest Senate president from 1987 until last year when he announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
A recommendation for Miller’s replacement will be made by Democratic central committees in each jurisdiction. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will have the final decision.
Miller was long admired on the floor for his even temperament, allowing Republicans, who are perennially outnumbered in both the Senate and House chambers of the heavily blue state, to express their views during debates without antagonism from fellow Democrats.
Hogan, who said he’s known Miller “since I was a kid,” called it “one of my greatest privileges as governor to serve alongside him.”
“He will go down in our state’s history as a lion of the Senate,” the governor said in a statement.
When the General Assembly session convenes on Jan. 13, Miller won’t be at the dais to offer a history lesson for his colleagues.
Miller did offer a quote in his letter to Ferguson from the late President John F. Kennedy about public discord in today’s national politics.
“In another time of conflict and national reckoning, John F. Kennedy said, ‘In a time of domestic crisis, people of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics,’” Miller wrote. “We did not always agree — even with members of our own party — but we disagreed with dignity and congeniality and that is what made me so proud to be a part of the Senate of Maryland.”