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Legacy: Floyd Miller: remembered and appreciated

The Town of Coldwater concluded its Black History Month Celebration (Feb. 26) in the Coldwater Cultural Center with a salute to the Life and Legacy of Floyd Miller. by Dr. Jessie J. Edwards
Special to the Tri-State Defender

The Town of Coldwater concluded its Black History Month Celebration (Feb. 26) in the Coldwater Cultural Center with a salute to the Life and Legacy of Floyd Miller. Mr. Miller (1927 -2011), the teacher, school principal, Jeanes Supervisor, school administrator, pioneer, trailblazer and community leader died on January 17 at his home in Holly Springs.

Mr. Miller began his teaching career in the fall of 1952 in the Lafayette County School System after graduating from Mississippi Industrial College in the spring of that year. He came to Tate County in 1953 as a classroom teacher at Coldwater Junior High. In 1956, he was made principal at Coldwater Junior High.

Two years later, Mr. Miller was promoted to Jeanes Supervisor, in charge of the supervision of Negro education in the Tate County Schools. In 1960, he became the “Founding Principal” of Tate County Colored High School. In 1970, he was assigned as the “Founding Principal” of Coldwater Elementary School, and retired in 1987.

Mr. Miller attended Laws Hill Elementary School in Marshall County. He attended as a boarding student, Junior High School at the Rosenwald School in Holly Springs. Earlean Gilmore, a former student at Tate County High gave a brief overview of the Rosenwald Schools. She said the Rosenwald Schools were established by the philanthropic Julius Rosenwald to aide Negro Education in the South. More than 600,000 Negros attended these schools between 1914 and 1950. Mr. Miller was one of these students. Rosenwald spent more than $4 million of his personal fortune to aide Negro education. This is an aside; by today’s standards this would be about $42 million dollars.

Because there were no public high schools in Mississippi for Negros, in 1946 Mr. Miller entered the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s (CME Church) Mississippi Industrial College Preparatory School at Holly Springs and graduated in 1945. That same year, he was drafted into the United States Army and served as a Medic. He was honorable discharged on Nov. 5, 1946.  

Mr. Miller entered Mississippi Industrial College in 1948, and received Bachelor of Science degrees in Social Studies and Business Administration in 1952. Wilma Jean Moore, a former teacher who worked under his administration gave an overview of the Mississippi Industrial College Preparatory School and Mississippi Industrial College.

Because all funds for Negro secondary schools were cut by the Mississippi Legislature in 1902, Bishop Elias Cottrell (1853-1937), the seventh bishop of CME Church, established both the preparatory school and the college in 1903, said Moore.  The preparatory school and college served as a beacon of hope for the Negro race for more than 75 years.

Hattie Wooten, a former student at Coldwater Junior High School in the 1950’s, said Mr. Miller instilled pride in his students, the school, and the community at-large. Cassandra Robinson, who attended elementary school at Coldwater, gave an overview of what Mr. Miller’s role as a Jeanes Supervisor must have entailed, saying that he played a huge role in family involvement, consolidation of black schools, providing resources, and increasing grade levels.

Charles Crouther, a former teacher, spoke about Mr. Miller as a high school principal. “Mr. Miller established the school… gave it its culture, and definition…. Let me tell you something mister, Tate County High School was the flagship school of all schools in North Mississippi.”

Rosetta Edwards spoke about Mr. Miller as her elementary principal in her initials years’ as a teacher. Mr. Miller, she said, was a very orderly person; you had to be on time for school, for meetings, dress professionally, be in your classroom and do your job.

Others former students who gave expressions were: Wayne King, Charles Wooten, George McGhee, and Winson King. Expressions were also given by his nieces, Beverly Rose Phillips, and Bernice Howell. An expression was given also by his church pastor, Rev. Denise Modest, pastor of Anderson Chapel CME Church, in Holly Springs.

The keynote address was delivered by Clen D. Moore Jr., former assistant principal to Mr. Miller. He spoke from the subject, “Education to the rescue: Along came a man from Holly Springs.”

 “Mr. Miller’s push was to have the best teachers on his team, meeting the challenges and opportunities of the new day. He built a very competitive school in academics, sports and other activities. His school was second to none,” said Moore.

“He wanted his school to be the best in everything. His school was always clean just like the man in charge of it. He was open to innovative practices and gave teachers a chance to work outside the box. As a result, he had an excellent turn-out with his students. The majority of them studied hard, preparing for college, and many went on after graduation to become teachers, lawyers, librarians, engineers, community, civic and church leaders.”

He conclusion? “Certainly, Mr. Miller, because of his many contributions to the Tate County Family, will always be remembered and appreciated.”

Georgia Vera Carr-Davis served as the song leader for the program, and led the collective singing of the school song, “Hail to Tate County High,” and  “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Steal Away to Jesus,” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It was announced that a scholarship has been set up in honor of Mr. Miller. Shirley Hankerson, Nancy Dandridge, and Charles Crouther are serving as co-chairs. To contribute, contact Crouther at 1-662-292-2105.

Also, a Gravesite Tombstone Fund, and a Memorial Marker Fund (to be placed in Coldwater) has been established. To make contributions, contact Mollie Lane at 1-901-337-0376 or George McGhee at 1-901-438-4872.

(Jessie J. Edwards, Ph. D., is mayor of Coldwater, Miss.)

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