Frederick E. Miller Sr., 82, businessman

Frederick E. Miller Sr.
Frederick E. Miller Sr.
Posted: January 29, 2014

Frederick E. Miller Sr., 82, of Philadelphia, a businessman, educator and community leader, died Monday, Jan. 20, of kidney failure at Kindred Hospital in Havertown.

At various times, Mr. Miller was active in business and economic development, investment strategy, capital formation, and corporate management, and was a volunteer leader of local organizations.

Born in Paulsboro, he graduated with honors from Paulsboro High School, where he played football, baseball, and basketball. He was granted a scholarship to the College of South Jersey, now Rutgers-Camden.

He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and economics, and went on to complete a master's degree in educational psychology and administration at Temple University.

For several years in the early 1960s, he taught elementary, secondary, and special education in the Philadelphia School District. He also was an instructor at Temple.

But "he was always in business at heart," said his son Fred Jr. After selling cookware, Fuller Brush products, and cosmetics, Mr. Miller decided to deepen his skills, and earned a master's degree in business administration from American Graduate University.

It was then that he was tapped by the Rev. Leon Sullivan, a fellow parishioner at Zion Baptist Church, to become the first director of the fledgling Philadelphia branch of Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America (OIC). Mr. Miller went on to become the national organization's CEO. He traveled with Sullivan and was responsible for launching OIC branches across the country.

Founded in 1964 in an abandoned jailhouse in North Philadelphia, OIC took individuals with few prospects, provided vocational training and help with life skills, then placed them in jobs.

"He was already a teacher when Leon Sullivan approached him. He saw he could do some good there," his son said.

Mr. Miller went on to become president and CEO of Progress Investment Associates Inc., a minority-owned development firm that grew out of OIC. Among other projects, it built Progress Plaza, a shopping center in North Philadelphia.

In 1980, Mr. Miller opened a car dealership, Fred Miller Pontiac, in Northeast Philadelphia.

Officially, he retired after a stint as finance director of the Philadelphia Port Corp. But retirement found him busier than ever, opening and running West Stock Inc., a liquor store in Camden; Franklintown Beverage Distributor Inc., a beer outlet in Spring Garden; and One O Six Delsea Inc., a liquor store in Deptford.

Then he became chairman of the board of directors for Berean Federal Savings Bank, Greater Philadelphia Venture Capital Corp., and the West Philadelphia Branch of the YMCA.

He was a member of the White House Conference on Small Business; the National Association of Black Manufacturers; and the American Association of Minority Financial Institutions.

Mr. Miller was president of Frontiers International; director of the Philadelphia Drama Guild; and a member of the NAACP, and the Rutgers and Temple alumni associations.

He received the Business Leadership Award from Philadelphia Frontiers International, and the Chapel of Four Chaplains Award for service to all people.

Christian faith was important to Mr. Miller. He came from a long line of ministers, deacons, and elders. He was baptized as a boy at Second Baptist Church in Paulsboro, and later served as a deacon and treasurer at Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

He enjoyed traveling, sports, reading, watching the History and Discovery channels on TV, and entertaining at his beachfront home in Ventnor, N.J.

"Lovingly teasing his family and friends was one of his favorite pastimes," according to a family tribute. "Always very witty, the teasing was in good fun."

For five years, Mr. Miller was married to his high school sweetheart, Elaine Moore. They had two sons, Fred Jr. and Darryl, before divorcing.

Later, he married Mae Jean Reid. They formed a blended family with the addition of two daughters, Catheleen and Felicia.

Surviving, besides his wife of 54 years, two sons, and daughter Catheleen, are six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews. Daughter Felicia died earlier.

A viewing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, will be followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service at Zion Baptist Church, 3600 N. Broad St., Philadelphia. Interment is in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.



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