Former judge, aviator Don Miller dies

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 25, 2019

 Donald Miller, who served as a judge and an Air Force officer, died Jan. 18.  He was 80 years old.

Donald Miller, who served as a judge and an Air Force officer, died Jan. 18. He was 80 years old.

Photo provided by the Macomb County Public Works Office


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Donald Miller, who served as a judge and an Air Force officer, died Jan. 18. He was 80 years old.

Well-known in aviation and in legal circuits, Miller, of Harrison Township, was the husband of Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller.

Donald Miller served as a Macomb County Circuit Court judge from 1998 until his retirement in 2010. He became a judge after serving for seven years as a magistrate on the state Worker’s Compensation Appellate Commission.

Macomb County Circuit Court Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. was appointed to Miller’s seat after his retirement.

“Don was well-respected for his judicial temperament and leadership qualities,” Biernat said in a prepared statement. “He spent his entire adult life serving the citizens of this country in one capacity or another. He was a mentor to many young attorneys, including myself, and his death is a real loss to the community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Candice and their family.”

Born June 17, 1938, in Grand Rapids, Miller had a lifelong fascination with aviation, often drawing World War II-era fighter planes on his schoolwork in elementary school, according to a press release from the Macomb County Public Works Office.

Miller began flying at age 16 in a Piper J-3 Cub and earned his private pilot’s license at age 17. He attended Michigan State University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and then was commissioned as an Air Force officer in 1961, initially trained as a pilot of the F-102 Delta Dagger and later transitioning to the F-100 Super Sabre.

Miller’s military career included service in Vietnam, flying with the 509th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.

Following the war, Miller continued his service in the Michigan Air National Guard. He finished his military career at the rank of colonel after serving as the commander of Selfridge Air National Guard Base and as director of operations for the 127th Tactical Fighter Wing at the base.

It was while serving as the commander of Selfridge that he married the then-Harrison Township supervisor. Don and Candice Miller were married for 35 years and continued to live in Harrison Township throughout their marriage.

Donald Miller retired from the military in 1988 to enter the legal profession.

Even after his retirement as a military pilot, Miller continued to fly, building and piloting his own aircraft. He and his home-built RV-8 were well-known at Ray Community Airport and many other locations, the press release states.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said he got to know Miller early in his own career with the Sheriff’s Office, when Miller was a judge.

“No doubt he is one of the most respected jurists of his time,” Hackel said. “He truly was a gentleman, and very thoughtful in his deliberation in the courtroom. He was highly intelligent.”

Hackel continued to get to know Donald, as well as Candice, while he was sheriff.

“It was a great partnership between the two of them, the way they complemented one another,” he said. “While Candice is very outgoing, he was a very stoic person. He had a calming personality.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Selfridge Military Air Museum, 27333 C St., Building 1011, Selfridge ANGB, MI 48045; or to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, 18025 E. 15 Mile Road, Clinton Township, MI 48035.