Jordan Miller, who, with his late wife, Anita Miller, founded Academy Chicago Publishers in 1975, died of natural causes in Chicago on October 18. He was 97.
Academy Chicago Publishers, Anita Miller told PW in a 2006 interview, was founded to publish books "no one else wanted, but that we felt should be published." When the Millers retired from publishing in 2014, they sold Academy Chicago to Chicago Review Press, the parent company of IPG and Chicago Review Press, where it became CRP’s fifth imprint and marked CRP’s entry into publishing fiction alongside its nonfiction offerings. Anita Miller died in 2018.
The Millers launched Academy Chicago in 1975, when Jordan ran a media monitoring agency and while Anita was working on a PhD in literature. Its first book, 1976's A Guide to Non-Sexist Children's Books, was the first reference work of its kind. The book, which included an introduction by the actor Alan Alda, then starring as "Hawkeye" Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H, was a bestseller, selling more than 40,000 copies. Media attention included a banner across the front section of the Chicago Tribune and newspaper headlines around the country, blaring, "Hawkeye Is a Feminist!"
Academy Chicago, which became renowned for mysteries, reissues of Victorian classic literature, and works in translation, again made headlines in 1987, when it became embroiled in a lawsuit with John Cheever’s widow, Mary Cheever, over the rights to publish The Uncollected Stories of John Cheever. Litigation in both Illinois and New York dragged on for six years, and the press ultimately lost the suit, prompting Anita to write a post-mortem on the matter, Uncollecting Cheever: The Family of John Cheever vs. Academy Chicago Publishers, which was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 1998. Anita told PW in 2006 that “the great irony of the whole thing was that, after the trial ended, nobody wanted that book. It's never been published."
Born in Boston in 1926, Jordan aspired to become a professional singer, and periodically hitchhiked to New York City as a teenager to hang out at jazz clubs there. Jordan was also a published poet, and, one of his sons told PW, "an inveterate dreamer, political activist, and publicist who never gave up on the people and things he loved." Even before cofounding Academy Chicago, Jordan was a mover and shaker in Chicago's literary world, and was instrumental in bringing such nationally acclaimed poets as e.e. cummings and Robert Lowell to the Windy City.
Jordan is survived by his three sons, all of whom are well known figures in the publishing industry: Mark Crispin Miller, a political activist and the author of several books about politics from a left-wing perspective; commission rep Bruce Joshua Miller, the principal of Miller Trade Marketing in Chicago and PW’s 2013 Sales Representative of the Year; and Eric Lincoln Miller, who once worked with Bruce as a commission rep and served as president of the National Association of Independent Publishers Representatives for a decade before launching a regional press, Wicker Park Books. After working for several publishing companies in marketing and sales, Eric launched 3ibooks, to provide marketing and sales services to publishers.
The Miller family plans to hold a memorial service in Chicago in February, scheduled around what would have been Jordan's 98th birthday, February 28. Details are to be announced. Donations in Jordan's memory can be made to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.