Educated at Potchefstroom’s Hoer Volkskool and later at the University of Pretoria. His first visit to England was in 1937 as a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University where he gained a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1940 and a rugby “blue”.
He graduated to national politics as MP for Pretoria East from 1958 to 1961.
With a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of South Africa, he began law practice in 1947 as a partner in a Pretoria legal firm. His political apprenticeship began in the same year with his election to the Pretoria City Council. He was Mayor of Pretoria from 1953 to 1955.
Dr Verwoerd surprised his cabinet by plucking Muller from the back benches and giving him the “plum" diplomatic appointment to London on January 10, 1961. Five months later, on May 31, when South Africa left the Commonwealth, he was transformed from High Commissioner to Ambassador and had the delicate task of smoothing the rough patches of the transition to a “foreign” power. His fellow diplomats in London acknowledged that he achieved a new sense of harmony with great skill.
In nominating Muller to succeed Dr Eric Louw as Foreign Minister, Verwoerd said on November 21, 1963: “Dr Muller is well known as a staunch Nationalist and an able diplomat." Before completing his first year he faced a hostile British Labour government which imposed an embargo on British arms sales. He also met increasing opposition at the United Nations where only 38 out of 117 delegations stayed to hear his speech to the General Assembly on September 29, 1965.
Through his patience as an architect of new relations with black African states Muller created a softer international climate for South Africa without yielding an inch on her vital interests. He paved the way for Prime Minister Vorster’s policy of coexistence with black Africa in the first visit of a South African Minister to Malagasy on November 21, 1970. He cultivated
Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland by quiet diplomacy and the offer of development aid with the assurance that there were no strings attached.
His finesse in making the first significant contact with Sir Alec Douglas- Home at the British Foreign Office after the Conservatives came to power in June 1970 resulted in the end of the arms embargo through an agreement for Britain to sell helicopters to South Africa. Equally cleverly, Muller created a new atmosphere at the United Nations by arranging for Dr Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary-General, to visit Southwest Africa and have talks with Prime Minister Vorster in March 1972.
Although too academic by nature to win mass support in politics, Muller has hovered more than once on the springboard for the highest office. His gentleness—typified by the fact that he placed a cushion under the head of Prime Minister Verwoerd dying in Parliament from an assassin’s blow held him back from political horse-trading. The only time his interests are diverted from international affairs is when he is absorbed in his passion for railways.
Married Nita Dyason, 1943. 1 child, Cornelius.