|Joe Miller shown with former President Bill Clinton at a fundraiser held in the home of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew|
An Indianapolis man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers was found dead in his Downtown home Thursday, police said.Do you think someone told Dennis Ryerson how Miller made his money, causing him to rethink the statement, "a man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers?" I would agree with the first part of that sentence, but I don't know how you could claim someone who got rich manufacturing and selling poppers to gay men could possibly give a damn about their health.
The death of Joseph F. Miller is being investigated as a possible suicide, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report. Miller, 59, was a wealthy businessman who supported issues relevant to the gay community and helped underwrite the Damien Center's HIV testing and prevention efforts.
Miller helped found Indiana Stonewall Democrats, a political caucus of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Democrats.
Former Gov. Joe Kernan said he and his wife, Maggie, had known Joe Miller since 1996, when Kernan came to Indianapolis as lieutenant governor.
"He was a dear friend to both of us, and we're very sad," Kernan said Friday, a day after Miller's death. Miller, he said, "was generous to his community, to Indianapolis, and in many ways that people are not aware of."
Police found his body in his home in the 400 block of West Michigan Street about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a report.
An autopsy was done Friday. Officials are awaiting toxicology test results, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew said.
Miller donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Petesson, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and the Indiana Stonewall Democrats. Miller was a close friend of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew, who helped Miller gain direct notice of former President Bill Clinton. Miller also made generous donations to many gay causes, including Indianapolis' Damien Center. A testing center for HIV/AIDS at the Center is named in his honor.
Former Indianapolis Star columnist and fellow blogger Ruth Holladay first broke news of Miller's rumored suicide last Thursday. The mainstream news media has been noticeably silent about Miller's death, despite his stature in the community. Miller is believed to have made hundreds of millions of dollars from his popper business, in addition to other businesses he owned. He once boasted that his company was the largest single advertiser in gay publications. After various research studies and news reports back in the 1980s linked poppers to the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, most gay publications stopped running advertisements for the product. Early in the HIV/AIDS crisis, some researchers believed poppers were the cause of the disease because so many of the victims shared a common use of the drug. Other studies have shown a causal link between the use of poppers and Kaposi's sarcoma, a disease often associated with persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Poppers are also believed to cause cell mutations and leads to suppressed immune systems in users. Physicians sometime prescribe nitrates in pill form for treatment of certain heart conditions, but it is illegal to market nitrates for recreational use by humans without a prescription.
After laws were enacted to crack down on their use as an inhalant recreational drug, Miller and other manufacturers became creative in their marketing efforts and claimed the product was being sold as a room deodorizer and video head cleaner, although it was no secret that those who purchased it did so for use as a recreational drug during sex. Many gay men began dropping dead from sudden deaths years later when Viagra first hit the market. The interaction of the two drugs for sexual encounters causes a deadly drop in blood pressure. An Atlanta gay activist died in June of this year after combining the prescription drug Levitra with poppers.
Miller was honored, along with U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, by the Indiana Stonewall Democrats just last year at an event in the home of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes. Controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz covered the event on behalf of Bilerico, a nationally-recognized gay blog which promoted the event honoring Miller. Former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, served as a co-host for the event.
UPDATE: A reader of the Star paper edition (yeah, there still are a few) says it appeared in the Saturday paper. I didn't see it in the Sunday early edition that comes out on Saturday. There are different versions that come out each day. The online version of the story certainly disappeared before it would typically be archived.