Thursday, July 12, 2007

Joseph Leggett Miller, Jr., M.D., 1910-2007

I was recently alerted to the death of Dr. Joseph L. Miller, Jr., by, of all things, an editorial in the Oregonian, which will be available free online for another few days. "The doctor who battled for Bull Run" it was titled, and the first physician to pop into my head was Dr. Harold Osterud, also recently deceased, who was a champion of clean water both in Bull Run and other local waterways.

As it turns out, Miller was an equally ardent advocate for Bull Run, a man who--according to the editorial--"single-handedly forced the U.S. Forest Service to halt logging and prevent recreational development in the Bull Run watershed system" in 1973. Unfortunately, politics being what it is, the watershed was reopened for logging, and Miller had the opportunity both to be arrested for his beliefs (at the age of 81, when he blocked logging trucks with his body) and to see the realization of his dream of a protected area with the passage of the Oregon Resource Conservation Act.

I hadn't known anything about this side of Miller, having transplanted myself to this area a long time after he was active in his pursuits. I had started to feel like I knew him a little from our "relationship" here in Historical Collections & Archives: he had donated over fifty titles to the History of Medicine Collection, and probably many others that are currently housed in the circulating collections. I must confess that I find it a little unnerving that the Oregonian referred to him as "Joe"; the formal donation bookplates always name him fully, as Joseph Leggett Miller, Jr. I was reluctant to even think of him as JLM, let alone Joe. I know bibliophiles can also be friendly, outgoing, casual folk--though I must admit that most serious book collectors I've met have been a bit on the stodgy side.

From his obituary, published about a week after the news editorial, I also learned that Miller was a Quaker, and a product of some very fine medical schools (University of Chicago, MD; Johns Hopkins, internship; Peter Bent Brigham, residency). His scholarship was evident from his collecting habits, but I never would have guessed the Quaker part.

I guess you can't judge a man by his bookplate.

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