|Born||January 20 1903|
|Died||July 14 1967|
Loren Miller (1903-67), an African American attorney and newspaperman from Los Angeles, was a major legal defender of Japanese Americans.
Early Life and Legal Career
Born in Nebraska and raised in Kansas, Loren Miller attended the University of Kansas and Howard University; while at Howard, he won an Amy Spingarn literature prize from the NAACP for his essay "College." Miller then attended Washburn College of Law in Topeka, Kansas. After graduation, he settled in Los Angeles. There he divided his time between writing, journalism, and legal work. Miller became a regular contributor to the local African American weekly California Eagle , and served as city editor. (In 1951, he would buy the California Eagle , and would operate it for the following decade). He also assisted his cousin Leon Washington in launching a rival newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel , and produced sporadic articles for outside journals. In 1935, he served as an editor of a left-leaning race relations quarterly, Race . Miller likewise maintained his interest in literature—after visiting the USSR with his close friend Langston Hughes in 1932, he coedited an anthology of Russian-language translations of American Negro poetry. Miller subsequently joined the left-wing League of American Writers.
During World War II, Miller became a nationally recognized specialist in the field of housing discrimination and the law. His main focus was the battle against restrictive residential covenants—private agreements not to lease or sell houses to members of minority groups. In the California court case Fairchild v Raines (1944) and the 1945 "Sugar Hill" case, Miller brought the first successful legal challenges to the use of restrictive covenants against African Americans. For his work against restrictive covenants, Miller was honored in 1946 with a Negro History Week citation by the Schomburg Library in New York City. That same year, together with Chicago archbishop Bernard J. Sheil, he produced a notable pamphlet, "Racial Restrictive Covenants."
In tribute to Miller's experience with housing discrimination, he was named to the NAACP's national legal committee. In 1947-48, he served as NAACP Chief Counsel in Shelley v. Kraemer , the landmark Supreme Court case in which the Court struck down legal enforcement of restrictive covenants as unconstitutional (although it left the covenants themselves untouched). The victory led to the opening of housing to minorities throughout the country—especially Japanese Americans who had previously been frequent targets of restrictive covenants. It also served as an important precedent for the Court's subsequent decision in Brown v. Board of Education six years later.
Aiding Japanese Americans
In the years during and after World War II, Loren Miller established himself as a stalwart defender of Japanese Americans, both in print and before the courts. His first major contact with Japanese Americans came through the 1943 federal court case Regan v. King , in which the Native Sons of the Golden West sued to strip Americans of Japanese ancestry of suffrage rights. Miller signed the American Civil Liberties Union 's friend of the court brief defending the rights of the Nisei. In the years following the war, Miller served as counsel on People v. Oyama , the JACL challenge to California's Alien Land Act . The case resulted in the notable 1948 Supreme Court case Oyama v. California , which froze all enforcement of alien land laws. Miller also served as counsel in the case of Takahashi v. California Fish and Game Commission , which challenged California's denial of fishing licenses to Issei as "aliens ineligible to citizenship." Meanwhile, Miller joined Japanese American Citizens League counsel A.L. Wirin in bringing Amer v. Superior Court and Yin Kim v. Superior Court , two California court cases that challenged restrictive covenants against Asian Americans (with, respectively, a Chinese-American and Korean-American plaintiff). Miller's most direct contribution to civil rights for Japanese Americans came in January 1951, when he again joined Wirin in arguing the California Supreme Court case Masaoka v. California . The Court's 1952 decision led to the final demise of the Alien land laws. Although he initially agreed to serve on the Masaoka case without fee, Miller was ultimately offered an honorarium by a Joint Conference on the Alien land Law.
After the victory in Shelley , Miller continued his work with the NAACP's West Coast Regional Legal Committee, where he continued to fight housing segregation and employment discrimination cases. He served as counsel in the landmark 1948 Perez v. Sharp case, which struck down California's laws against interracial marriage. In 1958, after a four-year struggle, he won a victory in the California Superior Court case of Ming v. Horgan , which ended racial discrimination in housing built with FHA loan insurance or VA loan guarantees. In 1956, he was appointed to the National NAACP Board of Directors, rising to the rank of national vice president by the early 1960s. He also served on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union. In later years, he also undertook a historical study of the Supreme Court and civil rights, which was published in 1966 as The Petitioners .
During these years, Miller retained his connection with Japanese American communities. In 1955, he addressed a meeting of the Southwest JACL in Los Angeles. He collaborated with JACL activists on various panels addressing racial discrimination in employment, while in 1957, the JACL furnished an amicus brief supporting his position in Ming v. Horgan . Miller also kept social contacts within the community—his children attended the Nisei church school of the Hollywood (Japanese) Independent Church. When in 1963, editor Howard Imazeki published an editorial in Hokubei Mainichi opposing civil rights legislation and suggesting that African Americans organize to improve conditions in their own communities, Miller issued a strong protest. In an editorial in the California Eagle , Miller deplored Imazeki's comments as "brainwashed" and offensive, especially coming from Japanese Americans who had been sent to "concentration camps" during the war. "There was no merit in the racial frenzy that wound up with Japanese of all ages and outlooks herded behind barbed wire; there is as little merit in the San Francisco Nisei's advice to the Negroes to 'go slow.' Negroes have been going slow for a hundred years and the need of our time is for impatience with all barriers to first-class citizenship."  Miller reminded Japanese Americans that many blacks had defended them in their time of trouble and had fought for civil rights.
In 1964 Miller was appointed by California governor Edmund "Pat" Brown as a California Superior Court Judge. Saburo Kido editorialized in favor of the appointment in Shin Nichi Bei : "[W]e owe a great deal to him, too, for the support he gave us as consultant in cases, such as the Oyama alien land litigation."  There was talk of him being touted for higher office, but it was stilled by his untimely death. In 1977 the California Bar Association created the Loren Miller Legal Services Award to honor attorneys who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to public service. The Loren Miller Homes, a housing development in San Francisco, was named in his honor.
For More Information
Hassan, Amina. Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.
Gordon III, Walter L. The Saga of Loren Miller: From Colored Communist to Civil Rights Champion . Amazon, 2019.
Robinson, Greg. The Unsung Great: Stories of Extraordinary Japanese Americans . Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.
- Loren Miller, "Wrong Side of the Mouth," cited in Saburo Kido, "Observation," Shin Nichi Bei , July 16, 1963.
- Saburo Kido, "Observation," Shin Nichi Bei , June 2, 1964.
Last updated Sept. 4, 2020, 2:46 a.m..