The death of Leroy "Pop" Miller provided a reminder of the difference great educators make, along with a glimpse of a very different era in education.
|Leroy "Pop" Miller|
"The man earned my respect, especially after a few cracks from the leather strap he carried!" wrote Toby Brundage.
This account posted by Katherine Magnotta was especially vivid:
When Pop Miller arrived at East Meck, he came into an integrated school full of turmoil and strife. The riots were fierce. Pop came in with vision and determination in his eyes and the fully armored riot squads behind him. He took control over the school and the students.
He did not see color, he saw students that needed love, discipline and education. He brought all three. If a student got in trouble, one of the punishments was for men, to wear a shirt and tie and for a girl to wear a dress. This seemed cruel in the hippy era where conservative dress was out of place, but it did something to us that defied logic. It made us walk different, hold our head up and act like a lady or a gentleman.
He was so wise in our dealings. I remember one day four of us were caught smoking weed in the parking lot (yes we did). We were taken to Pop Miller's office, where we were lined up against the wall while he just stared at us for quite a while, no words. It seemed like eternity and all the while Pop's lips were doing the in and out pursing motion. I wanted to burst out laughing but I knew it would be the end of us all. Then all of a sudden Bubba opened his mouth and said something sarcastic to Pop and before we knew it, Pop had grabbed Bubba's jacket and whipped him with it! Back in those days, students could be spanked and disciplined. It was not a bad thing. Pop did not hurt him, but it sobered us up enough to realize Pop meant business. We all had to dress up for a week and sweep the smoking patio everyday (yes, we had a smoking patio in high school). Pop made a point to tell how wonderful we looked and to comment on what a good job we did on the patio. His punishment was always to make us better people and not to degrade us.
Leadership like what Pop Miller brought to the table is not about race, color, economic status, politics or education. Leadership like Pop came from a heart filled with a deep level of wisdom, love and respect for the fellow man/woman. Pop has left us East Eagles with wonderful memories and respect for a job well done.
The online guest book brought other memories. Juanita Craig wrote about being a "very wild and over the top tomboy student" at West Charlotte High in 1960.
"Speaking for many students in the Greenville community Pop really had something to deal with because we were a very special bunch," Craig wrote. "When we graduated we all were model students. Thank you Pop a zillion times for being in my life. I don't know where or what I would be doing now if you hadn't sat me down in your office and let me know I didn't need to do the things I was doing to be respected."
Several women remember how Miller called all the girls his princesses: "One thing that I always remember was his Princess speech," wrote Joy Greene. "He would use it to praise you when you succeeded and to let you know your were capable of doing better if you messed up. After all. we were all his Princesses and Princes."
Pop Miller started teaching in 1945. In 2014, people are still telling their children and grandchildren about the life lessons he provided. If you're a young teacher, think about that for a moment. For all the stress and hassles you're enduring today, it's got to be awe-inspiring to imagine being remembered in the 2080s by students whose lives you're shaping now.