David Michael Milliner, Former Defender Editor and Publisher, Passes Away

David Michael Milliner, former editor and publisher of The Chicago Defender, passed away on New Year’s Eve. His cause of death is not known.

Milliner’s ties with the Defender ran deep. His grandmother and great-aunt once worked in the press room for founder Robert Abbott and his nephew John Sengstacke, who would eventually run his uncle’s newspaper. As a teenager in the early 70s, Milliner worked as a copyboy and photo filer. He revealed these details in an interview with the Chicago Reader in 2000. 

Milliner’s devotion to the Chicago Defender, from its history to its brand, was a constant.

“David Milliner steadfastly supported the Chicago Defender as a cherished friend, demonstrating unwavering commitment through active participation in our hallmark Men and Women of Excellence events,” said Chicago Defender Publisher Dyanna Lewis, “His profound interest in preserving the enduring legacy of the publication remains an indelible part of his legacy.” 

“We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his wife Dr. Jondelle Jenkins, daughter Francesca and all loved ones during this very sorrowful time,” said Lewis.

Milliner is credited with helping return the Defender’s venerable Bud Billiken Parade to prominence when he invited television cameras to the event and brought in a then up-and-coming broadcast journalist named Oprah Winfrey to participate.

“Bud Billiken had reached the point where it had no excitement. I was brought in to create electricity,” Milliner told The Reader. 

Milliner and a group of investors successfully acquired a group of newspapers, including The Defender. From there, according to his LinkedIn profile, he served as its editor and publisher from January 2003 to March 2004. 

David Michael Milliner

Yet, Milliner would operate as a marketing professional for most of his career. He served as the CEO of his company, DMMIWorld Communications, for about 35 years. 

Milliner graduated from Drake University and Kenwood High School. 

News of his passing elicited heartfelt sympathies from family friends and associates on social media.

“Sending my sincere condolences on the shocking passing of my friend and former client David Michael Milliner. Many years ago I represented David and a group of investors who successfully purchased several Black newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Defender. Following the acquisition, David became the publisher of the Defender. More importantly, David was my friend and a solid guy,” wrote Alan King on Facebook.

So sorry to learn that David Michael Milliner made his transition.  So many people knew David from Kenwood H.S, Drake University, Alpha Phi Alpha, The Defender Newspaper or even his fashion posts on social media.  I am remembering him opening his home as one of our early urban pioneers for the Bronzeville Historic House Tours.  His spirit was like a bookend and it lives on!  We send condolences to his family and his beautiful wife and daughter — his undeniable source of pride,” said Paula Robinson in a Facebook post

“Saddened to hear of your sudden passing. You are one of the True Gents. Always gave me a heartfelt greeting and bright smile. Always dapper with a great sense and love for style. With your Infectious personality you were friends to many and will be missed by all. Sincerest Condolences to your wife Jondelle & family. Rest easy David Michael Milliner,” wrote Tina Debonnett.


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