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In Memory of . . . Orloff W. Miller (1931-2015)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Rev. Orloff Wakefield Miller died on July 1st, 2015 at the age of 83.

Orloff was born on August 8, 1931 to Rev. Lawrence Miller and Alice Miller. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Union College (now University of Mount Union) in 1953, and went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology in 1956.

Rev. Miller was ordained by the Methodist Church in 1954, and served as minister to the Federated Church of Francestown, NH (Congregational) from 1956 to 1959. In 1959, he left the Methodist denomination and began serving as Associate Director of the youth organization, Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). He held that position until 1961. He received Unitarian Universalist ministerial fellowship in 1961, and spent the next five years serving as the Director of the Office of College Centers of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Staff Advisor to Student Religious Liberals. He went on to serve as District Executive of the Mountain Desert District of the UUA from 1967 to 1970; minister to the All Souls Church Unitarian Universalist of Colorado Springs, CO from 1968 to 1972; and minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo, CA from 1973 to 1979. In 1984, he was called to respond to the national AIDS crisis. He served as minister and AIDS consultant to the UU AIDS Crisis Ministry in San Francisco, CA, a role he held for five years. Rev. Miller officially retired in 1991; however he served as European Unitarian Universalist (EUU) Minister-at-Large from 1993 to 2000. In 2000, he was accorded the title of Emeritus EUU Minister-at-Large.

A tireless advocate for civil rights, Rev. Miller was among the hundreds of religious leaders who traveled to Selma, AL, in March of 1965, in answer to an appeal from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The appeal was put forth after a group of African-Americans, advocating for their right to vote by marching from Selma to Montgomery, were attacked by a group of white state troopers. While in Selma, on March 9, 1965, Rev. Miller, Rev. James Reeb and Rev. Clark Olsen, were attacked and beaten by a group of white men as they left Walker’s Cafe. Rev. Reeb died two days later. The attack gained nationwide attention, and served as one turning point in civil rights history. Several months later, in August of 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, banning racial discrimination within voting practices by federal, local and state governments.

Within an interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965), Rev. Miller explained:

I've been asked many times what business white clergy had in Selma, Alabama. What right did we have telling folks how they should run their lives. We not only had a right, we had a responsibility to be there because some of our family, our black brothers and sisters were not being treated fairly and wherever people are not being given their fair shot at having a full and meaningful life we have a responsibility to do what we can to help change that. And if it means we have to argue with other brothers and sisters about that then we better get in there and argue about it. And help them to see that there is another way of living as one human family. Yes, I think white people had a responsibility, and white ministers especially had a responsibility to be in Selma, Alabama. [i]

In March of 2015, Rev. Miller returned to Selma to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. His son, Orloff Garrik Miller, recalls, “By then [his] sense of balance was a problem, and we rented a wheelchair for the conference. The day of the reenactment of the march, [he] got up and walked across that bridge.”

Rev. Miller was active within the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association; the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; and the UUA’s (former) Full Recognition and Funding of Black Affairs Council.

Orloff studied within a doctorate program at the Institute for the Advanced Human Sexuality, in San Francisco, CA, in the early 1980’s, working toward a degree in Human Sexuality. When the AIDS crisis hit the United States, he felt a responsibility to respond. He worked as a Field Secretary for the AIDS Interfaith Network, and ministered as a volunteer hospice coordinator, providing support to people with AIDS, and to their friends and families. His son, Orloff Garrik Miller, “believe[s] that this was the hardest work of Dad’s career. Few he assisted survived more than a few months.” He received the Pacific Central District’s Unsung Hero Award in 1987 for his work during the epidemic.

Orloff Garrik Miller, son, has fond memories of a childhood spent with his father; together they camped, sailed, motorcycled, and traveled to regional retreats and encounter groups. In the early 1980’s, Orloff and Orloff Garrik loaded a motorcycle with camping gear and rode from San Francisco to Oregon.

Orloff moved to Germany in 1989, and married his dear wife, Renate Bauer, the same year. Their son, Glenn Erasmus Bauer, was born a year later. Orloff spent the next twenty-six years enjoying his retirement, volunteering, traveling, and taking care of Glenn Erasmus.

Renate remembers the ease with which Orloff made friends, and connected with individuals. “He found a way to bond with practically everyone,” she recalls, “He was dedicated to people, even at the end of his life. Even when he was not doing very well during the past two years, he made a point to call those who were worse off.”

Orloff is survived by his wife, Renate Bauer; his sisters, Karen and Sandra; and his children, Orloff Garrik Miller, Tanya Crete, and Glenn Erasmus Bauer.

There will be two services for Orloff, one for the European family and friends in Ludwigshafen, and one for the American family and friends in Acron, OH. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, August 30th at 3 P.M., at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, 3300 Morewood Road, Fairlawn, OH 44333. A memorial service will be held on August 30th at 2:00 P.M., at the Johannes-Ronge-Haus, Ludwigshafen, Worthstr. 6a, Germany.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, 689 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-3302 (http://www.uusc.org/).

 

[i]: Interview with Rev. Orloff Miller, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 30, 1985, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

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