Overview of the Collection
Arrangement of Materials:
Scope and Contents
Overview of the Collection
Collection Title: Reverend Wendell L. Miller
Bulk Dates: 1935-1961
Miller, Wendell L., 1902-1999
Physical Description: 1.06
Language of Materials:
Abstract: Reverend Wendell L. Miller was pastor of
the University Methodist Church, Los Angeles. He became involved in local politics when
gambling and prostitution began edging toward the area surrounding the University of
Southern California (USC) campus. Miller founded the Citizens Independent Vice
Investigating Committee (C.I.V.I.C.), which also campaigned against crime and corruption
in City Hall, ultimately resulting in the recall of Mayor Frank L. Shaw. The collection
documents Miller's involvement with C.I.V.I.C., and includes announcements,
bulletins, correspondence, newspaper clippings, news releases, pamphlets, radio
addresses, speeches, statements, and related items. There is also a small amount of
material documenting Rev. Miller’s anti-war activities including letters from Japanese
Americans sent to internment camps during World War II.
Reverend Wendell L. Miller, pastor of the University Methodist Church, Los Angeles, was
born in Albian, Nebraska on April 16, 1902. After graduating from Albian High School,
Miller attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, graduating in 1927, with an A.B. degree in
Psychology. Miller and his wife, Thelma, moved to Los Angeles when Miller enrolled in an
M.A. program at the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1932, and his
first ministry was in Los Angeles Harbor where he worked to serve the needs of
unemployed dock workers.
In 1937, Miller became involved in Los Angeles politics as gambling and prostitution
began edging toward the USC campus community. At the behest of several parishioners,
Miller began holding community-wide meetings, and founded the Citizens Independent Vice
Investigating Committee (C.I.V.I.C.). Clifford Clinton, owner of Clifton’s Cafeteria,
became the financial backer and first chairman of the Committee.
Gaining major attention from the mayor’s office, the police department, and organized
crime, the organization stepped up its publicity campaign against crime and corruption
in City Hall. When Mayor Frank L. Shaw denied publicly that houses of prostitution and
gambling were a major problem in the city, the organization quickly began a recall
campaign to oust the mayor and his friends. The recall was successful and several
members of C.I.V.I.C., including Miller, convinced Judge Fletcher Bowron to run for
mayor. Shortly after Bowron's successful mayoral campaign, C.I.V.I.C. ended its
In 1954, Miller left University Church to begin a lecturing career in adult education,
and a new ministry at Manhattan Beach Community Church which lasted twelve years. During
his ministry at Community Church, Miller caught the attention of local members of the
John Birch Society. In the early 1960s, the Birch Society published a pamphlet listing
Miller as a communist along with such notable figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D.
Eisenhower, and Margaret Mead.
Miller left Manhattan Beach in 1967, and settled in Palos Verdes. He became the Minister
of Visitation of his local church until his retirement. Reverend Wendell L. Miller died
at the age of 97 on November 9, 1999.
This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Genre/Form of Material:
Robert. G. Marshall and Thomas L. Davis, 1996
Conditions Governing Use:
Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s)
of this collection has been transferred to California State University, Northridge.
Copyright status for other materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of
materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by
fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the
public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright
owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Conditions Governing Access:
The collection is open for research use.
For information about citing items in this collection consult the appropriate style
manual, or see the
Citing Archival Materials
Arrangement of Materials:
Series I: Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee (C.I.V.I.C) Files,
Series II: Japanese Internment Files, 1942-1943
Series III: Political and Religious Activity Files, 1937-1961
Series IV: Non-Manuscript Material, 1928-1988
Scope and Contents
Reverend Wendell L. Miller Collection documents
Miller's career, including his early days as a minister in Harbor City, his time as
minister of the University Methodist Church at the University of Southern California,
and his work at the Manhattan Beach Community Church. The collection also documents
Miller's involvement with the Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee
(C.I.V.I.C.), founded in the late 1930s to prevent the spread of gambling and
prostitution in Los Angeles. Miller's anti-war activities are also documented. The
collection includes announcements, bulletins, correspondence, newspaper clippings, news
releases, pamphlets, radio addresses, speeches, statements, and related items. It
consists of four series: Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee Files
(1936-1967), Japanese Internment Files (1942-1943), Political and Religious Activity
Files (1937-1961), and Non-Manuscript Material (1928-1988).
Series I, Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee (C.I.V.I.C.) Files,
documents C.I.V.I.C.'s campaign to end political corruption, gambling, and
prostitution in Los Angeles in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and includes
documentation of charges of communism leveled against Clifford Clinton, C.I.V.I.C.
Chairman and an outspoken reformist with whom Miller worked closely. The series also
documents the 1938 recall campaign against Mayor Frank L. Shaw, and the campaign of
Mayor Fletcher Bowron. It consists of advertisements, correspondence, editorials,
flyers, lists of prostitution houses, newspaper clippings, news releases, pamphlets,
radio addresses, and statements, and is arranged alphabetically.
Series II, Japanese Internment Files, contains correspondence and newspaper clippings
documenting Miller's involvement with relocated Japanese Americans during World War
II. It includes letters condemning Miller and other members of his church for assisting
Japanese Americans en route to various internment camps, as well as letters from
Japanese Americans thanking Miller for his support and camp visits. The series is
Series III, Political and Religious Activity Files, documents Miller's political
work, labor reform efforts, anti-war interests, and church activities. It includes a
pamphlet from 1950 in which Miller and five other religious leaders wrote about the
hydrogen bomb's implications, and a 1961 document titled "A Report on the
Manhattan Beach Community Church" that accuses Miller and others of being radical
communists. The series includes bulletins, correspondence, pamphlets, reports, and
propositions, and is arranged alphabetically.
Series IV, Non-Manuscript Material, includes Miller's scrapbook of news articles,
correspondence, pamphlets, portraits, advertisements, and religious work from throughout
his life and career. The series also contains several photos from anti-war campaigns
during World War II, and some oversized posters and news articles.