Sunday, November 27, 2016
By Gordon Joseloff
Miller Pope, a Mad Man illustrator who lived the life of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” while living in Westport in the 1950s and ‘60s, died Nov. 20 at his home in Shallotte Point, N.C. He was 87.
“We called it ‘The Uniform,’” said Pope of the commuter attire in a 2006 interview. “Oxford shirt, button-down collar, regimental tie.”
Pope said every workday, like Gregory Peck in the movie, he would don his full dress and take the train from Westport to Manhattan.
There, he made a living as one of New York’s top illustrators, creating covers and inside sketches for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Redbook, and Reader’s Digest.
Miller was a member of The Society Of Illustrators in New York and served as president of the Westport Artists in Westport. He and his wife Helen moved to North Carolina in 1975.
In 2009, he self-published an autobiography, “Confessions of a MadMan,” in which he recounted life as a mid-century Westport commuter.
“It is a wonder that those of us from those heady days of the past survived,” he wrote. “It seems that the consumption of alcohol was truly oceanic. It was not unusual for the ad people I frequently entertained to consume 2 or 3 martinis at lunch and then go back to work.”
There was a lot of Westport entertaining, too.
“Helen and I had a lot of parties, and it was not too unusual for some of our guests to still be there when the sun came up,” he wrote. “We worked hard and played hard.”
Jacob Preston Miller Pope was born April 8, 1929 in Greenville S.C., the son of the late Jacob Preston Miller Pope and Lucille Hunt Pope.
He enjoyed drawing as a child. Too young to join the military when World War II started, he waited until he was eligible and found a home in the U.S. Marine Corps.
But before he could be sent overseas, some of his sketches were sent up the command chain. They caught the eye of someone at Leatherneck, the USMC magazine. Pope spent his time in the war stateside, doing illustrations for the magazine.
After being honorably discharged he attended Furman University and then at the age of 19 moved to New York City to pursue his career in art.
He struggled at first but quickly found his footing when he joined an advertising agency. He moved quickly to partner and began living the Mad Men–style dream — a fancy Madison Avenue office and a thick portfolio of clients
In New York, he met and married Helen Otis Pope, originally of Scarsdale, N.Y., to whom he was married for 52 years until her death in in 2004. Together they moved to Westport to raise a family, settling in a home on Valley Road.
Over time, the daily commute to his office became too much. Pope sold his partnership and set up shop in his studio in Westport.
Before long, he came up with the idea of starting an art production company that delivered art to all the ad agencies, doing all the pre-publication work at lower cost than Manhattan.
Located near the Westport railroad station, Publishers Graphics Inc. with partner Verne Bowman was a hit, and they soon had more work than they could handle.
“Verne was the artist and Miller was the idea-salesman,” Paige Gillie, who was employed at the firm, told WestportNow today.
“He was pretty good at whipping up enthusiasm with artists, clients and workers to get on board whatever ship he was sailing that day.
“He was also a great scatterbrain who left a trail of lost things behind him from one part of the office to another.
“And he was a fair diplomat, calming the frequently stormy seas of the art/production studio. He knew all the old time artists in town, the Westport artists guild bunch, the advertising crew, the illustrators.”
In 1969, Pope and his wife visited North Carolina, fell in love with it and six years later decided to make it their home.
“They all said, ‘You’ll miss the city’ and ‘Who are you gonna talk to down there?’” he said in a 2012 interview. “But I never had a problem finding friends and before long we were hosting parties at our house and we became part of the landscape in Ocean Isle Beach.”
There, he played a major role in the development and promotion of Brunswick County and its South Brunswick Islands. He was a founder of the area Chamber of Commerce and, along with his wife, founded The Winds Resort Beach Club on Ocean Isle Beach.
He was also a founder of Sea Trail Golf Resort at Sunset Beach, N.C. and served on the boards of over a dozen regional and national tourism organizations.
But being a real estate mogul was not enough. “Unless I’m doing something creative, I’m not happy,” he said.
So, naturally, he returned to his roots and began illustrating. First, he illustrated books about pirates and pirate ships, and eventually he did his memoir and several books of history written with author Jacqueline DeGroot of Sunset Beach, N.C.
He was predeceased by a brother, Hewlett Eric Pope. He is survived by his daughter Debra Hamilton of Isle of Palms, S.C. and his son, Gary Pope and wife Martha of Shallotte Point, his grandchildren Chasen McCall and wife Sarah of Isle of Palms, Jessica Hirshorn and husband Scott of Mt. Pleasant S.C., John Pope of Lexington, Ky., and Sydney Pope Long and husband Stephen of Charleston, S.C. and 4.99 great-grandchildren. Also his sister Dee Reid of Greenville, S.C., and his brother, Tom Pope of West Jefferson, N.C.
A celebration of life service will be held on Monday, Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. at Camp United Methodist Church in Shallotte, N.C. with visitation at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Smile Train (smiletrain.org) or to Lower Cape Fear Hospice, 955 Mercy Lane, Bolivia, NC 28422.
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