Cummins Mourns the Loss of Former Chairman and CEO J. Irwin Miller - aftermarketNews

Cummins Mourns the Loss of Former Chairman and CEO J. Irwin Miller

Cummins Inc. has issued a statement mourning the death of Joseph Irwin Miller, who died this week at the age of 95. Miller was born in Columbus, Ind. in 1909. J. Irwin Miller built Cummins from a family business into a Fortune 500 company with more than 25,000 employees in 131 countries and more than $6 billion in annual sales. He is credited for transforming his hometown of Columbus, Ind., into a city of architectural wonders, earning it the nickname the Athens of the Prairie. The company said he will be eulogized as a great business leader, social activist and philanthropist whose influence will continue well into the 21st century.

COLUMBUS, IN — Cummins Inc. has issued a statement mourning the death of Joseph Irwin Miller, who died this week at the age of 95. Miller was born in Columbus, Ind. in 1909.

J. Irwin Miller built Cummins from a family business into a Fortune 500 company with more than 25,000 employees in 131 countries and more than $6 billion in annual sales. He is credited for transforming his hometown of Columbus, Ind., into a city of architectural wonders, earning it the nickname the Athens of the Prairie.

The company said he will be eulogized as a great business leader, social activist and philanthropist whose influence will continue well into the 21st century.

In addition to his leadership in business, Miller was known for embracing social reform. As president of the National Council of Churches from 1960 to 1963, he shaped the council into one of the strongest supporters of the civil rights movement. He helped organize the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and was one of three church leaders to organize the National Conference on Race and Religion that same year.

He advised Presidents both in the U.S. and abroad, from John F. Kennedy to Nelson Mandela. He received more than 20 honorary degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in the country and numerous awards, including membership in Phi Beta Kappa and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1967, Esquire ran his profile on the magazine’s cover with the headline: “This man ought to be the next President of the United States.”

As a young man, Miller spent many hours in the workshop of Clessie Cummins, the diesel engine promoter who founded Cummins Engine Company in 1919 and who had been the family’s chauffeur. The family invested heavily in the Cummins engine, with W. G. Miller, J. Irwin’s uncle, serving as one of the principles and a member of the board of the newly created manufacturing entity.

With degrees from Yale (1931) and Oxford (1933) universities and following a brief apprenticeship with a family-owned grocery chain in San Francisco, Miller went to work for Cummins in 1934 as the company’s second general manager.

In 1942, Miller was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Navy Air Corps, where he served aboard the carrier Langley. He saw action in the Marshall Islands, Truk and New Guinea, but was called home to assume the role of executive vice president of Cummins Engine. At the time, the company was engaged in important wartime production building engines for cargo trucks.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the company’s primary strategy was set forth by Miller. He was named president of the company in 1945 and chairman of the board in 1951. Under his direction, the company set a high priority on research that would come up with new diesel technology, even if it meant obsolescing the company’s own products. Cummins worked to reduce costs, while maintaining high product standards. The company also created a national network of independent distributors through which it could develop and maintain a close relationship with customers.

Using this blueprint, Cummins sales increased from $20 million in 1946 to more than $100 million in just a decade. In 1956 the company launched its first overseas plant in Scotland. In the 1950s and 1960s, two presidents ran the company within the broad guidelines established by Miller, and by 1967 Cummins had cornered 50 percent of the diesel engine market.

In addition to helping direct the business of the diesel engine company, Miller realized that for Columbus to prosper it needed to offer an enhanced quality of life and cultural advantages. To that end, he directed the Cummins Engine Foundation, in the 1950s and again in the 1960s, to start paying the fees of promising young architects who were commissioned by Columbus to design public buildings, including schools.

Six of the buildings that resulted from this effort are National Historic Landmarks. Sixty other buildings help sustain the Bartholomew County capital seat’s reputation as a showcase of modern architecture.

During his lifetime, Miller received numerous awards, appointments to influential national boards and acclaim for the corporation’s good deeds.

Miller served as honorary chairman of Cummins Engine Co., director of Irwin Financial Corp. and Irwin Management Co., Inc. He also served on numerous other boards and committees including those of the Ford Foundation, the World Council of Churches, American Telephone and Telegraph, The Equitable Life Assurance Society, Chemical State Bank, New York City and the Yale Corp.

In addition, he served as an emeritus trustee of the Museum of Modern Art; chairman of the Special Committee on U. S. Trade with Easter European Countries and the Soviet Union; chairman of the United Nations Commission on Multinational Corporations; trustee, National Humanities Center; trustee, Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Visitation is being held today from 4 to 7 p.m. at the North Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Columbus, Ind., a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the North Christian Church Endowment Fund for Landscape Maintenance or an organization of interest to the donor.

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