Augustus C. Miller, Virginia Beach businessman and philanthropic force, dies at 87

Trevor Metcalfe, The Virginian-Pilot

The builder of a host of iconic Hampton Roads convenience stores, who also was a real estate developer and a philanthropic powerhouse, has passed away.

Augustus C. “Gus” Miller, founder of Miller Oil Company and a Virginia Beach deal maker, investor and advocate for reading and the arts, died Dec. 24. He was 87.

Miller is survived by his sons Jeff, Michael and Keith and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was born on Dec. 14, 1933, in Port Jervis, New York, and was raised in Milford, Pennsylvania. The oldest of three children, Miller served in the U.S. Army and traveled worldwide while working for ExxonMobil, then known as Esso. During his time with Exxon, Miller visited Africa and met the pope and the dalai lama.

Miller and his family settled in Hampton Roads in 1971.

“We’d come to love this area, so we decided to make it our home,” Miller told The Virginian-Pilot in 1997.

Miller bought Exxon’s home heating and oil business and started Miller Oil Company in 1977. Under Miller’s leadership, the company, now called Millers Energy, made Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest growing companies in the country three times. The company expanded into installation, repair and maintenance of all kinds of heating and air conditioning systems. The business also operates around 20 red-and-white Millers convenience stores in Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia.

Then-competitor Angus Hines told the Pilot in 1997 that Miller and his sons had capitalized on the business opportunity.

“He’s a hard competitor, but a good one,” said Hines, who owned a fleet of Sentry convenience stores. “They’ve done very well.”

Miller also owned and oversaw development at the Virginia Regional Commerce Park, a commercial property in Suffolk with thousands of feet in warehouse space, according to Inside Business reporting.

Miller oversaw numerous philanthropic efforts in Hampton Roads. The Millers Foundation, which began in 2004, helps local charities and nonprofits through fundraisers such as a golf tournament and Millers Bikes and Brews — a cycling and craft beer-focused event.

A collector of rare books, Miller also advocated for reading. He served as board chair for the Smithsonian Libraries and was a member of the Smithsonian National Board. He also served as board chair for the Chrysler Museum and was appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts at the Kennedy Center.

“He always, I think, saw the value of the arts for the community,” Erik Neil, Chrysler Museum director and CEO, said Wednesday. He also noted that Miller was instrumental in a major capital campaign.

Also in Hampton Roads, Miller served as board chair for both the Children’s Health Foundation and the Children’s Health System at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, trevor.metcalfe@insidebiz.com