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MILLER, Max Carlton (1899-1967)[566-18-6268] was born in Traverse City, Michigan, one of eight children born to William and Bessie Miller. After attending the University of Washington, Max Miller wrote for the Everett Daily News, then took a job in San Diego as a waterfront reporter for the San Diego Sun. In the 1930s living in San Diego and La Jolla with his wife, Margaret Ripley Miller, he became a well-known newspaper reporter and author of some 28 books.

Miller left newspaper writing after publishing his best-selling book, I Cover the Waterfront (1932), and continued to publish a book annually over the next twenty years. His subjects often included the modern U.S. military and the regions of Southern California and Baja California (Mexico). Miller served as a writer and information gatherer for the U.S. Naval Department Office of Public Information during World War II and the Korean War. His travel book The Cruise of the Cow (1951) records his exploration of the Baja California coasts.

“Miller, remained a toast of San Diego society. People whom you would describe as name-droppers would be the ones to mention Max Miller. Max Miller was everybody’s darling.” Miller was described: “about five ten, stocky, with short hair, with a decidedly ruddy complexion and a cigarette dangling from his lips or in his fingers.” He was also known for his heavy drinking.

Miller died in La Jolla on December 27, 1967. He was 68 years old. His papers, miscellaneous personal items and ephemera are in Special Collections, U.C. San Diego.

Max Carlton Miller = Margaret Ripley (1901-1980)

  • 1956. Miller, Max The Strange Legacy of San Nicolas Westways 48(6):6-7, June 1956
[original in SCIF archives]

  • 1959. Miller, Max And Bring All Your Folks Being a lighthearted examination of the southern California islands and some off Mexico, in case we get crowded off the mainland! New York: Doubleday, (1959)
[original in SCIF archives]

In the News~

December 28, 1967 [LAT]: “Author Max Miller, 68, succumbs in La Jolla. Colorful Ex-San-Diego Reporter wrote best seller I Cover the Waterfront. La Jolla—Max Miller, colorful former newspaperman whose 1932 best seller, I Cover the Waterfront coined a household phrase, died here Wednesday. He was 68. Miller suffered a stroke in the seacliff home where he had lived more than 30 years. He died at Scripps Memorial Hospital. He leaves his wife, Mrs. Margaret Ripley Miller, a brother and sister, Ray Miller and Mrs. Nels Thisted, both of Great Falls, Mont., and a second sister whose name and whereabouts were not immediately available. In accordance with his express wish, no funeral services will be conducted. Miller was a harbor beat reporter on the old San Diego Sun when he wrote the best seller. It was an artless, plotless book, no more that a series of vignettes of the scenes and experiences any waterfront reporter might encounter in day-to-day coverage of San Diego Bay. But it possessed a peculiar lucidity, a species of crystalline innocence which captured the fancy of the America of its day, and its success was instant and tremendous. At the height of the book's impact Miller was called to New York to confer with his publisher, and on his return he found another reporter assigned to the waterfront beat. The newspaper urged him to take a more important assignment and when he demurred, suggested that he "take time to think it over." Miller agreed and went home, but he never returned to the newspaper business. Instead he turned to production of the second of his 27 books. At the height of his career he wrote at least one a year. But while many were successful, none ever reached the smash-hit pinnacle of I Cover the Waterfront. Miller, who served as a Navy boatswain's mate in tWorld War I, rejoined the Navy as a lieutenant during World War II. He emerged with the rank of commander and was recalled for the Korean War in 1950-1953.”