Creighton Miller, 79, Lawyer and Notre Dame Halfback

By Richard Goldstein

Creighton Miller, an All-American halfback who was a member of a prominent Notre Dame football family and later helped organize the National Football League Players Association as its lawyer, died last week in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He was 79. Miller's body was found Friday at his apartment after he had been absent from his law office in  Cleveland. He had a heart attack, said Dr. Elizabeth Balraj, the Cuyahoga County coroner.

Miller starred for the 1943 Notre Dame squad that was 9-1 and ranked No.1 in the country. He led the nation in rushing, gaining 911 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, which was won by Angelo Bertelli, the Notre Dame quarterback.

Miller's father, Harry, was the Notre Dame football captain in 1908 and an all-American halfback in 1909. Four uncles played for Notre Dame, most notably Don Miller, one of the Four Horsemen, the famous 1924 backfield. His uncle Ray was an end for Notre Dame in 1911 and '12 and mayor of Cleveland in the early 1930's. His brother Tom, a halfback, was his teammate in 1941 and '42,

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

Miller served on the staff of the Cleveland Browns in 1946 but never played pro football, entering Yale Law School instead.

In the mid-1950's, Miller was handling legal matters for the Browns when two Cleveland players, Dante Lavelli and Abe Gibron, approached him to help form an N.F.L. players union.

The association was formally organized in 1956, with Miller as its lawyer. Its demands, mostly relating to salary and expenses, were modest in an era well before free agency. But the owners refused to recognize the association at first, although they made some concessions.

Miller reflected on early management-union relations in describing a Browns team photo of 1946, in which he appeared at the end of the second row, listed as "Asst. Coach Miller.'

After the 1962 season, while visiting Art Modell, the Browns' owner, Miller noticed something missing in Modell's copy of the photograph.

"I was walking around looking at the pictures on the wall," he told Dave Anderson of The New York Times in 1982. "I came to the1946 photo and told Art, 'I was right there but I'm not there now,' and Art said, 'If you ever need somebody removed from a group photo, I know a guy who does expert work.' The late Harold Sauerbrei of the Browns' front office then told me that Paul Brown had it done.

"What Paul Brown did with the photo shows how most of the owners felt about the players association back then."

Referring to Miller in his autobiography "PB," written with Jack Clary, Brown, the Cleveland Browns' founder and longtime coach, wrote that Miller had recommended some Notre Dame players but had never done any coaching for Cleveland. Brown said that Miller was listed as an assistant coach as a favor to his uncle Ray, the former mayor, so he could earn some money to help defray law school expenses. But Creighton Miller said he advised the Browns on the system devised by Coach Frank Leahy at Notre Dame.

Miller served as legal counsel to the union until the late 1960's and continued in his law practice, specializing in maritime and asbestos matters.

In addition to his brother Tom, of Atlanta, he is survived by another brother, Martin, of Wilmington, Del., and a sister, Maureen Weygandt, of Chicago.


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