Kansas City lawyer and noted philanthropist Richard Miller dies at 83

Richard W. Miller
Richard W. Miller

Kansas City lawyer Richard W. Miller, known for leading the nonprofit Christmas in October and for his role in several high-profile court cases, died Friday at age 83.

Miller was a founding member of the Miller Law Firm in Kansas City. In his career, he represented the historic village of Arrow Rock in a dispute with industrial hog farms and took on cases challenging Missouri’s use of tobacco settlement money and arts funding.

After graduating from Rockhurst University in 1952, Miller earned his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, which was then called the University of Kansas City. He practiced law for 60 years and was named Missouri Lawyer of the Year in 2005.

Miller specialized in business litigation and construction law. In 1991, he represented a group of contracting associations who challenged the city’s policy on hiring minority contractors. After the Hyatt skywalk disaster, Miller represented Havens Steel Co., which assembled the steel beams for the walkway.

In 1993, Miller and his son Steve, also an attorney, won one of the largest jury verdicts on record with a $116.5 million judgement in a San Francisco trial.

Miller retired in 2014. For more than 30 years he headed Christmas in October, a volunteer program that has rehabilitated more than 10,000 homes for residents in need. He also founded, or co-founded, Cristo Rey High School, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Duchesne Clinic, the Catholic Community Foundation and Alexandra’s House.

John P. McMeel, a longtime friend of Miller and a co-founder of Christmas in October, issued a statement about Miller through the publishing and marketing firm Andrews McMeel Universal, where McMeel is chairman.

“Many of us simply stick with our professions and may lend our names and contributions to furthering the cause,” the statement read in part. “Dick did that, and much more by emotionally and physically, and most definitely he intellectually wrapped his arms around an idea and turned it into a life-changing crusade to better the lives of others.”

Miller is survived by his wife, Bernadette, and nine children, 30 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.