This episode looks at the implications of the fall of the WASP establishment by looking at the life and career of J. Irwin Miller, a WASP industrialist whose commitment to and investment in his town of Columbus, Indiana helped make it the Rust Belt city that never rusted. The town never went into decline and remains a top architectural destination in the United States due to Miller’s leadership.
Miller was also an important national figure. The first lay leader of the National Council of Churches, an advocate for the Civil Rights Act, a leader in divestment from South Africa over Apartheid, and board member of AT&T, Yale, the Ford Foundation, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Recognizing his caliber of leadership, Esquire magazine featured Miller on its cover with the caption, “This man ought to be the next president of the United States.”
Miller’s life illustrates a tradition of leadership and community service that’s largely disappeared in the wake of the collapse of the establishment.
The Atlantic (written by me): The Rust Belt Didn’t Have to Happen
Nancy Kriplen: J. Irwin Miller: The Shaping of an American Town