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Former Rep. Clarence E. Miller died early Tuesday of complications from pneumonia in his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio. He was 93.
Miller served what was then Ohio’s 10th district from 1967 until 1993, earning himself the nickname “5 percent Clarence” for his constant commitment to cutting spending in Congress.
He modeled his fiscal conservatism off of Rep. Frank Bow, the Ohio Congressman who served as the senior Republican member of the Appropriations Committee when Miller joined Congress.
After Bow’s retirement, Miller took up his crusade, attaching an amendment to ensure a 5 percent cut to Congress’ expenditures to 10 different bills in 1976 alone.
In 1977, Miller finally got a 5 percent cut to foreign aid, but realizing that same cut across the board wasn’t always politically viable, he instead began to push for 2 percent cuts. He was successful in cutting labor, education and welfare spending by 2 percent in 1978 and continued to pursue fiscal conservatism till he was defeated in 1992.
During his time in Congress, Miller served on the Agriculture, Public Works and Transportation committees, but he was most satisfied with his time on the Appropriations Committee, said his granddaughter, Amy Miller-Jackson.
But Miller’s true passion was in technology. An electrical engineer for Columbia Gas Co., he held several patents and had always liked to tinker with mechanics. Miller-Jackson said he was proud of his time spent as vice chairman of the Office of Technology Assessment, a position to which he was appointed by the Speaker of the House.
“Anything with technology, anything with science, he loved. He was always trying to invent things — it was his favorite thing to do. He was always working with little pieces of metal and little engine parts,” Miller-Jackson said.
Miller-Jackson added that near the end of his life, her grandfather was working on inventing a hearing aid that would drown out background noise, as he had lost his hearing early on. His office, she said, remains just as he left it — with light bulbs, wiring and other mechanical knickknacks scattered about his desk.
The Congressman was well-known for his good attendance, with a perfect voting record for his first 11 years in Congress, according to Bob Reintsema, his chief of staff. Miller-Jackson remembers him running to votes right when he heard the bells, even if it was just for a simple quorum call.
“His view was that he got elected by the people back in Ohio, and he had a very, very important job to represent them. Missing a vote, to him, meant letting down the people of Ohio,” she said.
Miller grew up in Lancaster and earned an engineering degree through a correspondence course after graduating from high school. He pursued his engineering career with Columbia Gas Co. and eventually worked on its political action committee.
After leaving the business world, Miller became a member of the Lancaster City Council in 1957 and was elected mayor in 1963.
After retiring from Congress, Miller returned home to experiment with mechanics and spend time with family. He also kept a garden, each row of which was given to a grandchild or great-grandchild to tend.