Biography of a Great Cummins Leader, J. Irwin Miller

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J. Irwin Miller

Joseph Irwin Miller was a former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cummins Inc. from 1934 until his retirement from the Company in 1977, with time off for service during World War II. By the time he retired, he had taken Cummins from a primarily Indiana-based company to a Fortune 500 corporation with operations in multiple countries across the world. In 2011, Cummins recorded $18 billion sales, and currently has approximately 45,000 employees with operations in 190 countries.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ind., he graduated from Yale University in 1931 and received his master’s degree from Oxford University in England in 1933. He married his wife Xenia in 1943 and the couple had five children.

His strong beliefs in ethics, integrity and diversity led to a revolutionary approach to conducting business. He was a vocal proponent for workplace diversity many years ahead of his fellow corporate executives. He would only do business with companies that exhibited the same ethical values as Cummins and he would not open operations in countries unless they followed those same values. Because of this, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “the most socially responsible businessman in the country.”

While he was a tremendous leader for Cummins, he also dedicated his personal life to service and equality. He helped establish the National Council of Churches and served as the organization’s first president (1960-1963). In that role, Miller was instrumental in sponsoring the March on Washington led by Dr. King in 1963. He was ahead of time, actively supporting civil rights legislation, which eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Miller instilled the Cummins value of improving the communities in which we live and work. He founded the Cummins Foundation in 1954 in part to help the growth of the Columbus community following WWII. The Foundation, through Miller’s leadership, provided community institutions with the financial resources to hire world-renown architects to design schools, churches and other public buildings. Today, Columbus, a town of about 40,000 people, is known as the Athens of the Prairie and ranks with Chicago and New York City as one of the nation’s top communities for beautiful and creative architectural design.

Miller’s legacy lives today in Cummins’ values, ethics, commitment to diversity and spirit of innovation.


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  • Ronald E. Jarrett says:
    October 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm Reply

    First … how can I get a copy of the Esquire magazine story of this nation’s need to elect Mr. Miller President of the USA?

    Second … his is a story that needs to be told to everyone in America via books and other media for kids, teens, collegians, and a 6 hour made for television feature film. He is truly the essence of what the ideal American business person should be. If I was younger and not trying to make an even bigger project to eliminate poverty in this country a reality, I would develop a K-12 J. Irwin Miller/ Martin L. King, Jr. Readers and Doers Program for all of the kids in this country, especially our poor kids.

    Ron Jarrett, President
    Economic Equity Foundation &
    452 West Horizon Ridge Pkwy, Suite 172
    Henderson, NV 89012


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