EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Jay Miller, who served more than 40 years in the leadership of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, has died at the age of 83.

Miller died Tuesday in Evanston of complications from emphysema, according to his son, Joshua Miller.

Illinois ACLU executive director Colleen K. Connell said in a statement that Miller had retired in 2000 after serving more than 40 years with the ACLU in Illinois, as well as in Northern California, and the national offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Miller was credited with rebuilding the organization after many left because of its 1978 defense of neo-Nazis who sought to march in Skokie, home to many Holocaust survivors.

He also defended protesters arrested during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in which many demonstrators were involved in violent clashes with Chicago Police officers.

Connell said in a news release that Miller was “a titan, a fierce advocate and a powerful inspiration for all persons who love civil liberties.”

He traveled all around the state to defend people against “outrageous abuse of government,” Connell said.

“He championed rights for all persons, including women, persons from the LGBT community, persons of color and persons with disabilities,” she said in the release. “It was woven into Jay’s DNA that no individual was less deserving of precious constitutional protections than any other person. He breathed, he lived and he understood that assuring fundamental rights for each individual ensures fundamental rights for all of us.”

In addition to his wife, Miller is survived by two sons and a daughter. Services are planned for Friday at Chicago Jewish Funerals in Skokie.

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