The Honorable Yvonne B. Miller was a trailblazer!
Senator Yvonne B. Miller was a fearless legislator in the Commonwealth of Virginia who: shattered glass ceilings, was a servant leader who led with passion, and blazed a path for others to follow in Politics and Education.
Born Yvonne Bond, in Edenton, North Carolina on Independence Day 1934; she was the eldest of 13 children born to John T. and Pency C. Bond. Her family relocated to Norfolk, Virginia where she and her siblings attended segregated schools. Upon graduation from Booker T. Washington High School, Yvonne was encouraged by Mrs. Mable Ellis Sparks [sp] an elementary school teacher and member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., to attend college. Mrs. Sparks helped Yvonne secure scholarship funding through the sorority and she subsequently enrolled in Norfolk Division of Virginia State College (now Norfolk State University), and in 1956 she completed her B.S. degree in Education at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University).
Senator Miller went on to complete her M.A. from the Teachers College at Columbia University, and earn her Ph.D in Education fro the University of Pittsburgh.
While in pursuit of higher learning, Miller became a life-member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
Having attended Norfolk's segregated school system as a child, she returned to teach in Norfolk as the city defied the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and remained segregated through Massive Resistance.
Her career as an educator continued when she returned to Norfolk State University as a professor and head of the Department of Childhood/Early Education. In 1999 she retired from Norfolk State University, having taught there for 31 years.
It is long-believed that her experiences as a teacher during Massive Resistance, combined with her involvement in voter reform, are what led her to a career in politics. Remembered as "the conscience of the Democratic Caucus,"- Senator A. Donald McEachin; as she was a fierce and passionate advocate for Virginia's marginalized communities, minorities, voter rights, and education.
"Politics was interesting to me. I had enough wins to keep it interesting, and enough losses to keep me humble." - Senator Yvonne B. Miller
Yvonne Miller broke racial and gender barriers as the first Black woman to win a seat in the House of Delegates in 1983. Four years later, Senator Miller was the first Black woman elected to a seat in the State Senate and served on the budget-writing Finance Committee. She became the first Black woman to chair a Senate Committee; the Senate Transportation Committee.
In 2010 Sen. Miller and Sen. Louise Lucas succeeded in having Virginia recognize the Nottoway as among the state's remaining Native American tribes.
Sadly, the world lost Senator Yvonne B. Miller the day before her 78th birthday, in 2012, to stomach cancer. Her legacy lives on through her family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, Sorors of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., former students, and the countless people who were blessed to know and love her.
At the time of her death in 2012, Miller was the longest-serving woman in the Virginia Senate, ranking 4th in overall seniority. Senator Miller created the "Zeta Day at the Capitol," which continues to be recognized annually by members of the sorority as a day of advocacy.
"Senator Miller reminded me to have tough skin and a tender heart. She also forced me to acknowledge and respect the power of my voice while encouraging me to be courageous enough to demand that same respect from others." -Mrs. Vivian Henderson, Esq.
"I asked Senator Miller to mentor me at a Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington, DC one year. She declined. At first I was hurt. She did not feel that she would be a good fit because she saw me as operating in a different realm than her, with her being in Norfolk and me being in the DC area. The lesson to me is, "if it's not right, it's not right," and we should not be ashamed of that. While she was not my formal mentor, by her declining to mentor me, she taught me a valuable lesson I will never forget."-Ms. Krysta N. Jones
The following tribute by Metropolitan Funeral Home is a wonderful glimpse into her life, and the lives she touched:
In April 2013, former Governor Bob McDonnell renamed the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) high schools in her honor. "In an effort to help streamline academic record-keeping as well as create a fuller sense of unity among residents housed at the DJJ JCCs, Governor Bob McDonnell announced in April 2013 that the high schools on each JCC campus will be consolidated into a single high school to be named named Yvonne B. Miller High School."
In a time where Virginia and the nation are in the midst of a reckoning with its past, it's important to point out that Senator Yvonne B. Miller made history in Virginia through her leadership, and made it possible for others to see themselves in the House, Senate and beyond through her reflection. Her legacy has no bounds and is everlasting; her life continues to reach and shape the hearts and minds of those who learn of her triumphs. She is worthy of a statue erected in her honor. Her life's work, her impact, and her ability to open doors to Virginia's State Capitol, so other Black women could have a seat, makes her worthy of the highest honor and recognition.
"Follow your gifts and talents. Play to your strengths, and always say good things about yourself." - Senator Yvonne B. Miller