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MILLER, ACKER C.

MILLER, ACKER C. (1891–1984). Acker C. Miller, Baptist leader, was born on December 22, 1891, on a horse ranch near San Angelo, Texas, the son of Gottlieb Miller. The family, of Swiss origin, had changed its name from Mueller to Miller in the late 1850s. Miller's father was affiliated with no church, and his mother, who was born in Lampasas County, was a Lutheran. Miller made a profession of faith at a Baptist revival in Colorado City and joined the local First Baptist Church. He decided to become a minister at about the age of twenty-one. His life was guided by a belief in practical, or applied, Christianity, a conviction reinforced by education. Upon graduation in 1917 from Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), he enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He chose Southern over the fledgling Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth because he wanted to expand his horizons. Professor Charles Gardiner introduced him to the thought of social gospel ministers Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch. Miller served as a chaplain in the United States Army for eighteen months, then resumed his studies in 1919 and graduated two years later with a bachelor of divinity from Southern. He returned to the Southwest and spent the next twenty years as the pastor of small congregations in Cleveland, Oklahoma (1921–26), Cisco, Texas (1926–31), and Belton, Texas (1931–40). In January 1941 he went to work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. From 1941 to 1944 he directed Baptist work among soldiers in Texas, and from 1944 to 1950 he headed the convention's Department of Interracial Cooperation. By 1950 this agency had become the Christian Life Commission, an arm of the general convention dedicated to a social application of the scriptures. Miller was the commission's first director. His work was to draw the attention of evangelistic-minded Texas Baptists toward the social implications of the Gospel. A body of tract literature begun under his leadership and distributed extensively, entitled "The Bible Speaks," included lessons on race, economics, and the family. In January 1953 Miller left Texas for Nashville, Tennessee, where he led the Southern Baptist Convention's Social Service Commission, the name of which was also changed to Christian Life Commission. The racial issue was the most difficult issue faced by Miller as head of the national CLC. In May 1954 the United States Supreme Court rendered the historic Brown decision on school desegregation. Miller promptly urged Southern Baptists to comply with the court's ruling and, along with Jesse Weatherspoon, a prominent ethicist at Southern Seminary, helped draft the SBC's response of June 1954. Although Miller retired in 1960, his active involvement in Baptist life was far from over. He briefly pastored a mission church in Sedona, Arizona; taught for three years at the Fruitland Bible Institute in Hendersonville, North Carolina; enrolled in graduate courses at the University of North Carolina in Asheville; and wrote steadily. He married Margaret Goodnight of Abilene, Texas, in 1922, and they had four children. Miller died in Dallas on September 22, 1984.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

John W. Storey, Texas Baptist Leadership and Social Christianity, 1900–1980 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).

John W. Storey

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

John W. Storey, "MILLER, ACKER C.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmi72), accessed July 26, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.