Walter C. Mller, Former CMA Awards Executive Producer, Passes At 94

Walter C. Miller, award-winning television director and producer who served as an executive producer, producer and consulting producer for the CMA Awards for more than 40 years, passed away last night, Nov. 13, 2020. He was 94 years old.

“Walter was an absolute television legend,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “When you worked with him, you instantly knew you were in the presence of greatness. He brought so much innovation and brilliance to the CMA Awards over the 40 years he worked with the organization.”

“Walter Miller was my friend and mentor,” says Robert Deaton, CMA Awards Executive Producer. “Everything I know about producing great television I learned from Walter Miller. Walter had a long list of accomplishments and credits and working with the biggest names in entertainment, however I know that working in Nashville and with the CMA Awards was closest to his heart. He loved our artists, and in return we counted Walter as one of our own. Today we say thank you, you will be missed and rest in peace dear friend.”

Born Walter Corwin Miller on March 15, 1926, Miller began his television career in the late 1940s, when he went to work as a lighting director for the variety series “The Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour” on NBC. As the 1950s and early 1960s progressed, Miller’s credits included “Startime,” “The Bell Telephone Hour” and “Sing Along With Mitch.” As the years continued, Miller directed such television events as “New Orleans Jazz Festival 1969,” “Johnny Cash and Friends” and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” In 1967, he received one of his biggest breaks when he was asked to co-direct “The Belle of 14th Street,” a Barbra Streisand special on CBS, with the legendary Joe Layton. It was the first of a long line of legendary musicians Miller would work with, including Johnny Cash, Dick Clark, Al Green, Frank Sinatra, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder and many more. He also steered the ship on specials focusing on George Burns, Cash, Kathie Lee Gifford and The Osmond Family.

Miller excelled at serving at the helm of music-related programming, working as producer of the CMA Awards for 40 years, beginning with the show’s third annual telecast, which was then held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. In addition to the CMA Awards, Miller also directed and produced the Emmy Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Grammy Awards and the Tony Awards.

Miller was nominated for 19 Emmys during his long and illustrious career, taking home five trophies between 1972 and 1999 – with four of his wins coming for his work on the Tony Awards. Perhaps one of his most notable CMA Awards came in 2005, when the event moved to New York’s Madison Square Garden for one year. Miller was awarded the CMA President’s Award in 2007, and two years later, he was bestowed with the CMA Irving Waugh Award to celebrate his many years of service to the organization. In receiving the award, Miller became only the fifth person to do so, following Waugh, Frances Preston, Jo Walker-Meador and Cash.

Walter C. Miller on set during rehearsals for “The 36th Annual CMA Awards” at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on Nov. 3, 2002.
Photo Credit: Theresa Montgomery/CMA