1944 – 2021

image of De Miller

Melville “De” Miller, Jr., President Emeritus of Legal Services of New Jersey, revered in the world of legal aid organizations in the state and nationally, died March 1, 2021. De, as he was widely known, was one of LSNJ’s incorporators in 1971 and was instrumental in establishing the statewide Legal Services system that exists today.

His visionary leadership and unparalleled achievement on behalf of the Legal Services community and low-income clients in New Jersey was conducted with brilliance, courage, creativity, commitment, and a relentless pursuit of justice and desire to improve the lives of the poor. He will be sorely missed.

View the program from the Celebration of De’s Life and Legacy

View the video of the Celebration of De’s Life and Legacy

Make a donation to the Melville De Miller, Jr. Memorial Fund



The legacy and achievements during De’s days at the helm of LSNJ include free legal representation in more than 2.6 million civil legal cases involving some 9 million poor New Jerseyans. A detailed history of the statewide program can be found on the New Jersey Equal Justice Library and Archive website, as well as in the book, “Fifty Years Advancing Justice,” which was compiled for LSNJ's 50th anniversary event. Below are videos, photos, and outside links that illustrate the many phases of Legal Services history in New Jersey.



Videos of De’s lifelong pursuit of justice on behalf of low-income people and disenfranchised members of society are compiled here. Included are videos of De from throughout his Legal Services career, including speeches given at special events, television interviews, and other public events, as well as videos by others made in his honor.


Video Tributes to De

Video Footage of De



The Early Years of Legal Services (1970 – 1995)

The seeds of the New Jersey Legal Services system were planted during the tumultuous 1960s, and consisted of local neighborhood offices located in anti-poverty agencies or multi-service centers. Later in the decade, these programs were replaced by Office of Economic Opportunity programs; then the New Jersey State Office of Legal Services (SOLS) and several county programs. It was in 1971 that De joined SOLS as counsel, and, in 1972, he left SOLS to head the new Middlesex County Legal Services program. Shortly thereafter, he co-founded LSNJ, which received its first grant in 1975. Despite political attacks and funding cuts at the federal level during the 1980s and 1990s, New Jersey’s programs remained strong, due in part to the support of former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean. A book authored by De and Nancy Goldhill, called “You and the Law in New Jersey,” was published in 1988 and a host of legal rights publications were created by LSNJ that continue to this day.

LSNJ in the 21st Century (1996 – 2020)

In 1997, with a grant from the Fund for New Jersey, LSNJ’s Poverty Research Institute (PRI) was founded to conduct research about poverty in New Jersey and make policy recommendations to help alleviate it. Over the course of the next 25 years, county programs consolidated into regional programs, statewide funding grew with the influx of money from Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funding until the housing market crash and subsequent “Great Recession.” These losses were a devastating blow to the Legal Services program in New Jersey, resulting in cutbacks in several programs and significant restrictions on services. De was determined to right the ship, which he did, before announcing in 2019 that he planned to “step aside” as LSNJ president. After passing the baton to his successor Dawn K. Miller, he turned his attention to PRI, constructing reports that draw attention to the disparate impact of COVID-19, and the pervasive inequality and injustice that persists. He continued to serve as President Emeritus until his death on March 1, 2021.





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