JP Miller Biography

JP Miller was born James Pinckney Miller on December 18, 1919 in the historic city of San Antonio, Texas. He died on November 1, 2001 in Flemington, New Jersey (near his long-time Stockton farmhouse residence) of complications resulting from pneumonia. He was known to many of his close friends and associates as “JP” although a few referred to him as “Pappy”, a nickname attributed to producer Fred Coe.

According to his bio on Wikipedia, JP Miller sold his first story to Wild West Weekly in 1936 however his professional writing career began in earnest in the early 1950s after friend and Director Delbert Mann, who he met at Yale Drama School, urged him to come to New York where writers were finding work in the new television industry. At Mann’s urging Miller moved to New York with his family and took a job selling commercial air conditioning and refrigeration systems. His first big break came when he rode the subway into New York City from his modest Queens apartment to deliver a script to a producer’s office. When he arrived, the secretary informed him that the producer was not in but that his office was just down the hall and he was welcome to leave his script on the producer’s desk. A couple of days later Miller received a phone call from the producer with the good news that they wanted to buy his script for $1,200 (a virtual fortune at the time).

In just a few years JP Miller became one of the leading playwrights during what is considered to be the Golden Age of Television, receiving three Emmy nominations. Miller is best remembered for the Days of Wine and Roses, produced first as a live television drama for Playhouse 90 in October of 1958 featuring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie, and directed by John Frankenheimer, then later as a motion picture in 1962 featuring Jack Lemon and Lee Remeck and directed by Blake Edwards.

This Royal typewriter is much like the one my mother, Juanita Miller,
purchased from the Gulf Oil Company where she worked as an
executive secretary, to help my father at the start of his
career as a writer. She paid $35 for it at the time.

James Pinckney Miller was the son of construction engineer Rolland James Miller and touring actress Rose Jetta Smith Miller who purportedly had Cherokee ancestors. At the age of 17, living in Palacios, Texas, he sold his first story to Wild West Weekly. That same year, he boxed professionally in Beaumont, Texas and other Texas rings under the name Tex Frontier, usually earning $10 a fight.

While attending Rice University in the late 1930s, he became a part-time reporter for the Houston Post. After graduating from Rice in 1941, he traveled to Mexico as a special feature writer but failed to send back any copy because he became interested in art and was studying sculpture at La Escuela de Artes Plasticas in Mexico City. Sick with jaundice, he returned to Texas. Shortly thereafter he received a call from his mother who told him he’d received a draft notice from the Army. He promptly enlisted in the US Nave and served in the South Pacific during World War II, primarily as a gunnery officer, seeing combat first aboard the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Chester—torpedoed early in the war by a Japanese submarine. Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Cabot, he learned deep sea diving and adopted the name JP Miller (minus periods after the initials) after receiving orders in that format by U.S. Navy addressing machines. The Cabot returned to the United States with 13 battle stars, and a Presidential Unit Citation. Miller came back with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

After WWII, he studied writing and acting at the Yale Drama School and then went to Houston briefly where he sold real estate and Coleman Furnaces. Moving to New York, he sold York refrigerators and air conditioners while spending off hours at theaters, television studios and American Theater Wing classes.