Even as a young press operator at the Washington Post, working amid the din of printing presses rolling to the deadline, Royce Miles stood out from the crowd.
He took pride in his work and had a love for printing.
“He was clearly both good at his job and interested in learning more,” said Donald Graham, the Post’s former editor.
Miles’ career in the newspaper industry took him far from the Post’s newsroom to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he arrived in 1998 and eventually rose to the organization’s No. 2 executive position.
Along the way, Miles, who left the Journal Sentinel in 2016, has never missed an opportunity to lend a hand to others.
Miles, who lived in Kenosha, died suddenly on April 3, with his family by his side at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha.
He was 54 years old.
George Stanley, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, recalled Miles’ passion for work and his colleagues.
“Royce helped lead the Journal Sentinel through a difficult time of industry transition with his integrity, honesty and deep concern for our employees and for serving our community,” Stanley said. “He kept hope alive and always looked forward. He helped our entire team stay positive with his confidence and gentle sense of humour. You just can’t value having a teammate like Royce when you go through storms.”
Elizabeth Brenner, former publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, described how she first heard of Miles when she was introduced to workers at the newspaper’s print shop in West Milwaukee.
“I remember meeting a reporter as a brand new editor and trying to chat,” she said.
She asked the worker what he liked about working at the Journal Sentinel and was surprised when he talked endlessly about Miles and a program he instituted at the facility.
Brenner’s reaction? “Who is Royce Miles and when will I meet him.”
“Royce’s ability to work with management all the way to the top of the company and work with your hard working pressman or packer is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any newspaper I’ve been to. “Brenner said.
Miles rose through the production ranks at the Journal Sentinel, eventually becoming the newspaper’s executive vice president and general manager, the publisher’s second place. He then served as Chief Operating Officer for Journal Media Group, Inc.
Journal Sentinel reporter James Causey marveled at how Miles, a top executive, has become a fixture at National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conventions.
“He always told people how much he loved being in Milwaukee, how much he loved what we were doing,” Causey said. “Royce appreciated the journalists’ contributions.”
Miles was born at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Md., and grew up in Seat Pleasant, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C.
His partner, Amanda Ramsfield, said Miles was drawn to print and graphic design in high school.
“He knew all about it,” she said.
He eventually found his way to the Washington Post, where he started as an apprentice news operator. Miles was part of a program that allowed employees to pursue education at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he eventually earned his Bachelor of Science degree.
“Royce was the kind of guy you knew was going somewhere,” Jim Coley, vice president of production, told The Washington Post.
Coley said Miles eventually became deputy superintendent in charge of the Post’s newsroom before moving to Milwaukee in 1998.
Miles was part of the team that planned and helped to fully open the Journal Sentinel printing facility in West Milwaukee in 2003. The final articles are expected to be printed at this facility next month.
“It was her baby,” Brenner said.
Gary Hall, Gannett’s regional operations manager, said Miles has shown “ethics and drive” throughout his career.
“Royce never sidestepped a question or a problem,” Hall said. “He would face it head-on. Everyone looked up to him, and more importantly, he always made the time to listen to all employees. Royce always put employees’ needs above his own.”
After leaving the Journal Sentinel, Miles worked for Fischer Paper Products and in recent years became the owner and operator of Grundstrom Landscaping in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Miles was known for his dedication to education. He earned an Executive Masters in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also attended Northwestern University to complete an executive leadership program in media.
He served on the Board of Directors of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
“Royce was passionate about people,” Ramsfield said. “He was such a great leader. In his own way, he always wanted to give back and take care of people. He always wanted to help.”
Besides Ramsfield, survivors include Miles’ mother, Gloria Miles of Washington, D.C., daughter Kiah Ballard-Miles of Kenosha, and grandson Taurrean “TJ” Koker, Jr.
A visitation will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday with the funeral at 7 p.m. at Proko Funeral Home, 5111 60th St., Kenosha. The burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, family memorials would be appreciated for her grandson’s education.