There may be no greater compliment for a parent than what Meg Miller Derrick said about her father, George J. Miller.

“Dad never set rules for us,” she said. “He didn’t raise his voice or a hand. The look of disappointment on his face was punishment enough. We’d work hard to win his confidence back."

A respected lawyer and judge, Mr. Miller, 89, died on Tuesday, May 26, from complications of COVID-19. He was living at the Beaumont retirement community in Bryn Mawr.

Mr. Miller was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge as chairman of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in 1995. Here he is in more relaxing times.
Courtesy of the Miller Family
Mr. Miller was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge as chairman of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in 1995. Here he is in more relaxing times.

Mr. Miller was born in Bradford, Pa., and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1956. He served three years in the Army, working in the Judge Advocate Corps and rising to the rank of captain.

He was an associate and later a partner with Philadelphia law firm Dechert LLP from 1958 to 1995, where he embraced environmental law and recognized that technology would be an important tool.

His other daughter, Kate, said her father bought early personal computers in the 1970s and kept his foot on the technology pedal throughout his life. Gov. Tom Ridge appointed him as chairman of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in 1995, and Mr. Miller served until 2009.

“Judge Miller continued a tradition of scholarship and successfully led the board in establishing its website and electronic docketing system,” Chairman and Chief Judge Thomas Renwand said. “This achievement alone greatly modernized the practice of environmental law in Pennsylvania.”

As serious as Mr. Miller was about his work, he never forgot to be gentle to his children. “Do you know why I’m keeping the street lights on?” he asked his daughters when the family lived near 21st and Race Streets. “So the pigeons could find their way home.”

“Dad lived his entire life by example,” Derrick said. "Honesty, hard work, optimism, embracing all walks of life, joy, love, and laughter.”

“He was really a pioneer in environmental law. ... He was good at recognizing new opportunities, and he saw a vacuum. He had a vision for the implications that this was going to have on clients.”

daughter Kate Miller

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Miller is survived by son Jonathan; former wife Ann Wall Richards; and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by wife Louise and son Paul.

Kate Miller is a geophysics professor at the University of Wyoming and former dean of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M, where she established a scholarship in her father’s name.

Mr. Miller embraced honesty, hard work and optimism, his family said.
Courtesy of the Miller Family
Mr. Miller embraced honesty, hard work and optimism, his family said.

“All of his children had really different personalities, and he appreciated them for who they were," Kate said. "I always thought that was something that was great about him. I deeply admired him.”

— Ed Barkowitz, ebarkowitz@inquirer.com