D. Thomas Miller, who, as president of the CBS Television Stations Division in the 1970s helped to launch the classic syndicated television program “The Muppet Show,” passed away at the age of 86 late Thursday afternoon (9). He died of a heart attack while driving his car in Cohasset, Mass., where he had resided since 1993.
In the 1970s, when the Primetime Access Rule limited the three networks to three hours of network programming between 7:00 and 11:00pm, local stations needed to fill the access hour of 7:00-8:00pm. Mr. Miller, then the president of CBS Television Stations, championed puppeteer Jim Hensen’s concept of a variety show starring his Muppet creations like Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. He brought the idea to CBS Chairman Bill Paley and eventually, “The Muppet Show” was picked up as a production taped in association with CBS-owned television stations, and sold in syndication. The groundbreaking program was broadcast from 1976 to 1981.
Mr. Miller started his career in broadcasting as an assistant research director at ABC Radio and Television, and held positions at the CBS Television Network, Harrington Righter & Parsons, and ABC-TV during the golden days of the television industry. He rose to General Manager of WLS-TV in Chicago from 1963-‘66. Mr. Miller rejoined CBS in 1967, accepting a position as Vice President of Broadcasting for the New York Yankees when the network owned the team. In 1968, he was named Vice President and Assistant to the President, CBS Broadcast Group. In 1970, Mr. Miller became the President of the CBS Television Stations Division. It was in this position that he met Henson and was instrumental in launching and producing “The Muppet Show.” He continued his career at the CBS Broadcast Group as Vice President, Technical Resources from 1977-‘79, and as Vice President, New Ventures from 1979-‘85.
David Thomas Miller was born July 13, 1925, in Chicago, Il. He was the second oldest of five boys of William Henry Miller and Doris Marie (Jones) Miller. He graduated from Chicago’s St. George High School in 1943, passed on an opportunity to play football at the University of Colorado, and entered the military. During World War II, Mr. Miller served as a Navigator Bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Forces in the rank of Second Lieutenant. While on a training flight, he witnessed the only testing of the Atomic Bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, prior to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following the war, Mr. Miller attended Loyola University in Chicago, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1950. He also did post-graduate work at University of Chicago from 1950-‘51.
Mr. Miller was a high school football player and track star. On a lark, he and a friend tried out for the New York Yankees, who then offered Mr. Miller a minor league contract. As a young man in Chicago, he was the drummer and manager of the Johnny Miller Orchestra. Mr. Miller was an avid skier. Once, Stein Erickson approached him about teaching skiing in Chile. He was also a lifelong golfer and had belonged to the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y., the town where he lived from 1966 to 1993.
Mr. Miller received a Doctor of Humane Letters in Communications from St. John’s University in 1974 and was a member of the Knights of Malta of the Catholic Church. He sat on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers of New York, the Catholic Communication Foundation, the International Radio & Television Society, The Advertising Council, and The Television Bureau. He served on the Board of Advisors to St. John’s University Communications School and Adelphi University Business School.
He was the beloved husband of Miriam T. (Koenig), and the loving father of Thomas D. Miller and his wife, Pamela of Fairfax, VA., William H. Miller of Aspen, Co., Mary M. Ernst and her husband, Robert C. of Cohasset, Jill A. Miller of Greenwich, CT., and Lawrence K. Miller and his wife Lisa of Glen Ridge, NJ. He was the brother of the late William, John, James, and Robert, and was the devoted grandfather of Thomas Miller Jr., Christopher Miller, Catherine Miller, Gregory Ernst, Michael Ernst, Catherine Ernst, Peter Ernst, Luke Ernst, Maggie Ernst, Taylor Miller and Peyton Miller.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 at 11:00am in St. Anthony Church, Cohasset, Mass. Visiting hours are Wednesday, Feb.15 from 4-7 pm in McNamara-Sparrell Funeral Home, 1 Summer St. (directly across from St. Anthony Church), Cohasset. Internment at Beechwood Cemetery, Cohasset. For an online guestbook, please visit www.mcnamara-sparrell.com
CBS CONTACT: Shannon Jacobs 212 975-3161 SLJacobs@cbs.com
FAMILY CONTACT: Tom Miller 703 850-3637 Millcorp@aol.com