Longtime Maryland State Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. died Friday afternoon, his family announced. He was 78.

Miller was a Maryland state senator for 45 years and the senate’s president for 33 years — a position he held until January 2020, about a year after he announced his diagnosis with prostate cancer. Miller retired from the senate last month, citing health concerns. 

After Miller stepped down as senate president last year, his colleagues unanimously decided to give him the title of “Senate President Emeritus.”

In June, the University of Maryland announced it would be naming its main administration building after Miller. Miller graduated from this university in 1964 before attending the University of Maryland School of Law.

In an email announcing the name change, former university President Wallace Loh wrote that Miller “transformed our physical campus.” He helped secure state investments for The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Xfinity Center, the Bioscience Research Building and Cole Field House, Loh wrote.

[UMD renames administration building to honor Thomas V. “Mike” Miller]

But some students have objected to the naming of the building, citing past racist and homophobic remarks from Miller. Over the past few weeks, a group of students at this university, as well as local community members, have pushed for the name to be removed from the building.

Since Miller’s death was announced, several state political leaders have released statements celebrating his life.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, who succeeded Miller, described him as a “family man” and a “hard worker.”

“It is impossible to think of the Maryland Senate and not think of Mike — not just because of his historical longevity — but because each member of the Senate has his or her own Mike story,” Ferguson’s statement read. “There are thousands of former Senators, Delegates, staffers, and constituents in the 27th District that he has impacted for the better.”

In a statement, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Maryland flags would fly at half-staff in honor of Miller. 

[USM committee addresses controversial building names in new policy revisions]

“Maryland has lost one of its most revered leaders, and I have lost a dear lifelong friend,” Hogan’s statement read. “He was, in every sense, a lion of the Senate.”

In a series of tweets Friday, University of Maryland President Darryll Pines honored Miller’s life.

“Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller has been a giant among those who have built our flagship and propelled Maryland to a top public research institution,” Pines wrote. “Terrapin love to the entire Miller family.”

Miller is survived by his wife, five children and 15 grandchildren.