BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Many figures in Bay County fondly remembered the life and legacy of Mr. Leon Miller.
Miller died Monday at the age of 89 from complications of several illnesses.
Miller was a long-time educator in the community, whether at Rosenwald High School or Gulf Coast State College, where he worked as a student advisor and also an assistant coach for the Commodores Men’s Basketball team.
“Back in 1964 I was in the 8th grade at Rosenwald High School and he was my history teacher,” Former Bay District Schools principal Dr. Anita Dillard said. “During that time, he really made an impact on me by sharing the history of what was going on and also being a motivator to students telling us that we needed to go ahead and graduate and that we need to have productive lives.”
Miller was also the first African-American city commissioner in Lynn Haven.
“He believed in equality,” Lynn Haven City Manager Vickie Gainer said. “He believed in strong community relations and he believed in being kind to your fellow man and he just exemplified all of those three great qualities and that’s one of the reasons you will hear over and over again he was a pillar in this community.”
Miller was a mentor to Gainer and encouraged her to apply for the role of city manager.
“I will miss him so much,” Gainer said. “He was definitely one of the people who held up my arms when they got tired and he was one that could encourage anyone on any given day. […] He taught me the most important thing is that people want to know you care and he showed that in everything he did.”
Miller helped organize Lynn Haven’s first Black History Month program.
He was also a spiritual leader, prominent in his church.
“In my opinion, he is one of those guys that you just don’t replace,” New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church pastor Rev. Parnell Smith Sr. said. “He is one of those guys that someone comes along and says ‘You remember Mr. Leon Miller? I want to be like him […] Of course here at New Bethel, we are certainly going to miss him as one of our deacons and spiritual leaders but this community is going to miss this man of God truly.”
Long-time friend of Miller’s Randolph Phillips said he was someone people could always rely on.
“If you wanted to talk to somebody to get the right answer or the truthful answer, you talked to Leon,” Phillips said. “If you wanted somebody to do something and he said he would, he would do his best so Leon was the kind of person you could count on to do what he says he would do and do the best of it he could.”
Dillard recalled a moment she shared with Miller that has stuck with her ever since.
“The very last thing that I asked Mr. Miller was ‘What do you want to say after you’re gone, Mr. Miller?'” Dillard said. “He just said ‘Whenever God calls me, I know I have done my job. I have done what he told me to do.'”
The public viewing for Mr. Leon Miller will be Thursday at Russell A. Wright Sr. Mortuary from 6 to 8 p.m.
The funeral service will be held at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday at 3 p.m.