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 Thomas Miller  (1920 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: Painting, graphic design, mosaics

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Ad Code: 4
Thomas Miller
Mosaic portrait of Wilberforce Jones.
DuSable Museum of African American History
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Thomas Miller (1920-2012)

Obituary. Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2012

By Graydon Megan, Special to the Tribune

Artist and graphic designer Thomas Miller began his career in the years after World War II, when there were few African-Americans in the field.

After studying at what was then the Ray-Vogue School of Design in Chicago, Mr. Miller soon found work as a graphic designer with the now-defunct Morton Goldsholl Associates design firm in Chicago.

"We hired the best person for the job." said Harry Goldsholl, son of the late Morton Goldsholl.

The firm's work included corporate identity, package and logo design, and Mr. Miller worked on projects that included the distinctive "twin peaks logo for Motorola and logo and packaging design for the soft drink 7UP.

"I know Tom worked on the 7UP logo," Harry Goldsholl said. "Tom was an all-around great guy who would do anything that was asked of him and then some."

Mr. Miller, 91, died of natural causes Thursday, July 19, in hospice care at Smith Village in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago, according to Smith's executive director, Kevin McGee. Mr. Miller, a longtime resident of Beverly, moved to Smith Village in 2002.

Mr. Miller's fine art includes a number of works on display at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, where his mosaics of many of the museum's founders grace the lobby.  Work of his on display at the museum also commemorates city founder Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and the city's first African-American mayor, the late Harold Washington.

"He was an interesting innovator as a visual artist," said Carol Adams, the DuSable Museum's president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Miller was born and grew up in Bristol, Va.  He earned a bachelor's degree from what is now Virginia State University in Petersburg in the early 1940s.  He served overseas with the Army during World War II.

He came to Chicago after the war and enrolled at Ray-Vogue, where he studied graphic design and was one of only a few African-Americans students.  By about 1950, he had completed his studies and soon began his 35-year career with the Goldsholl firm.

Mr. Miller stayed with the firm through a name change — to Goldsholl Design and Film — and a move to Northfield before retiring in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Miller retired from his design and commercial artwork but never retired from fine art, continuing to produce oil paintings, collages, mosaics, watercolors and a distinctive form of printmaking.

"Tom was one of the most creative people I've ever known," said artist Jack Simmerling, a partner in Heritage Gallery in Beverly.

Heritage hosted a one-man show for Mr. Miller about seven years ago, Simmerling said.

He owns several examples of Mr. Miller's work, which ranged from highly realistic and representational to brightly colored abstracts.

McGee said Smith Village hung a number of Mr. Miller's watercolors and mosaics in the dining room in its assisted living building and renamed the room in honor of Mr. Miller — the Thomas Miller Dining Room.

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