RIP Senator Yvonne Miller

Norfolk Senator Yvonne B. Miller passed away this afternoon.  Norfolk and Virginia have lost a tremendous voice.

Statements across the political spectrum are pouring in. Posted in the order in which they were received:

From Gov. Bob McDonnell:

Maureen and I are deeply saddened to learn of the news of the passing of State Senator Yvonne Miller. Yvonne was a history-maker and a trail blazer. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and the
first African-American woman elected to the Virginia State Senate. She was the first woman to chair a Senate Committee, and she was the longest-serving woman in the history of the Virginia State Senate. She was passionate about education, and she loved her alma mater, Norfolk State University. Yvonne Miller cared deeply about people, and she was a strong voice always ready to passionately advocate for the disadvantaged, the forgotten and the overlooked. Yvonne made history when she was elected to the General Assembly. But she made the biggest difference in what she did once she got there. We will all miss Senator Yvonne Miller and her passionate service to the people of Virginia. She was a wonderful human being and a great American. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends in this difficult hour.

From Congressman Bobby Scott:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my friend and colleague Senator Yvonne Bond Miller. Yvonne was a stalwart champion of civil rights and paved the way for others to follow not only with her words but with her actions. This is evidenced by the number of ‘firsts’ that can be attributed to her. Yvonne was the first African American woman to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates and the first African American woman to serve in the Virginia Senate. She was the longest serving woman in the Virginia Senate, where she ranked 3rd in overall seniority, and she was the first woman to ever chair a Senate Committee.

Yvonne spent her life devoted to Virginia’s children and youth. She began a longtime career in education teaching in the then-segregated Norfolk Public Schools. Later she joined the education faculty at Norfolk State, becoming a professor and head of the Department of Early Childhood/Elementary Education. Her legislative priorities similarly focused on our youngest citizens – ensuring that state education dollars were spent effectively and providing adequate social services, such as childhood obesity prevention, to students across Virginia.

Yvonne was also a tireless advocate for reforming the way Virginia handles crime, introducing legislation on after school programs for at-risk youth and gang prevention, child-friendly visiting rooms in correctional facilities, and restoration of voter rights for non-violent felons.

The citizens of the Fifth District and the entire Commonwealth have lost a dedicated public servant. My thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Miller’s family and her staff.

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chair, Senator Mamie Locke:

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of State Senator Yvonne B. Miller. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has lost a stalwart and a giant. The Commonwealth of Virginia has lost a great Virginian, a great legislator, and a great humanitarian. Senator Miller’s was a powerful voice that spoke most eloquently to the mission of the VLBC being an organization committed to the underrepresented and underserved. In her own words, Senator Miller said this at the start of the 2012 legislative session:

“The downturn in the economy has caused many Virginians to suffer the pains of homelessness, hunger and unemployment. This is the time that they need legislators to increase expenditures in human services, education and health. The mental health needs are great and the services are few. We need to care for the sick and infirmed and the elderly who are also citizens of the Commonwealth and entitled to share in the bounty of the state.”

That irreplaceable voice will be truly missed by all who knew and loved Yvonne B. Miller. She was and will forever remain a giant among women and a role model for us all. On behalf of the VLBC, we extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family of our beloved colleague and friend.

Former Governor Tim Kaine:

Anne and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Yvonne Miller. Yvonne was a trailblazer, a strong voice for education and equality, and a dear friend. She was raised in a Virginia that looks very different than the one she leaves behind, thanks in no small part to her career in education and public service. Her legacy will live on in the hundreds of lives she touched during a career that began in Virginia’s segregated schools and spanned more than four decades.

Yvonne will also be remembered as a woman who broke down barriers in Virginia politics, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the House of Delegates, the first African American woman elected to the Senate of Virginia and the first woman to chair a Senate committee. For more than two decades, Yvonne represented Hampton Roads with enthusiasm and pride. Our thoughts and prayers are with Yvonne’s family, her friends, her constituents, and her colleagues on this sad day.

Senate Democratic Caucus:

(Richmond, VA) – Today Senator Yvonne Miller of Norfolk passed away after serving in the Virginia legislators since 1984. Surrounded by family, Senator Miller passed away at her home in Norfolk.

“This woman lived a long and full life. She has lived through the best and the worst this country has to offer and made contributions that made it a lot better,” said Democratic Senate Leader Dick Saslaw (Fairfax).

A native of Edenton, N.C., Yvonne Miller was the oldest of 13 children. She worked as a first grade teacher in Norfolk until Virginia’s policy of “massive Resistance” was implemented. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree at Columbia College and become a Professor at Norfolk State University until 1999 when she became Professor Emeritus. Later she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Donald McEachin (Richmond) said, “Yvonne Miller dedicated her life to making the world a better place. She did not hesitate to speak truth to power, and to remind us all of our principles and values. As the senior member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Yvonne was our soul and our conscience. I miss her terribly already.”

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has lost a great Virginian, a great legislator, and a great humanitarian. Senator Miller’s was a powerful voice that spoke most eloquently to the mission of assisting the underrepresented and underserved. Her irreplaceable voice will be truly missed by all who knew and loved Yvonne B. Miller. She was and will forever remain a giant among women and a role model for us all,” said Sen. Mamie Locke (Hampton), Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Aside from being the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia Senate (1987), she was the female Senator with the longest term of service in the General Assembly, the first woman to chair a Senate committee and the first woman to serve in Virginia House of Delegates (1984-1987).

Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran:

On behalf of the Democratic Party of Virginia I want to express my profoundest condolences to the family and friends who are coping with the passing of Senator Yvonne Miller. I would also like to convey the utmost gratitude and admiration for Senator Miller’s tremendous lifetime of service to her community, Commonwealth and country.

Few Virginians in history have done more for the cause of justice, equality and societal progress than Senator Miller and no one has done it with her grace, style and ferocious dedication to building a Virginia where every person can live, work and thrive.

This is a day to reflect on the tremendous loss of one of our most impactful public servants, but also to challenge ourselves to live up to the standard that Senator Miller set for each of us during her decades of service to this Commonwealth.

House Democratic Caucus:

Today, the Commonwealth has lost one of its jewels, Senator Yvonne Miller. With her passing, we have lost one of the most dynamic, transformative members of the General Assembly.

“Senator Miller was a trailblazer,” said Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles (D-Franconia). “Her career is rife with firsts—first African-American woman elected to the House of Delegates and the State Senate, the first African-American woman to chair a Senate committee—transportation, and the longest serving woman in the State Senate. We can only hope to have careers as long and illustrious as Senator Miller. The Commonwealth has lost a wonderful person and representative.”

“She was the fiercest voice for people who had no voice—minorities, women, the poor, and children,” said Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond). “She was always there to fight for them. This is a huge loss for all of us. She was the soul the General Assembly.”

“Virginia has lost one of her greatest advocates for the rights of the underserved,” said Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg). “Senator Miller was a Christian first and a politician second. She shared with me her practice of visiting a different church each Sunday within her district to get ‘closer to the people.’ She was a stateswoman of great valor and warmth. Everyone was “precious” in her sight. It was indeed an honor and a privilege to work with and learn from her.”

“We offer our condolences to Senator Miller’s family,” said Democratic Leader David Toscano. “We cannot begin to understand the depth of their loss. For almost 30 years, Senator Miller served her community and the Commonwealth faithfully and well. In addition to her service to the people of Virginia, she was wonderful person. The gravity of her loss is felt by all of us.”

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling:

“I was very sorry to hear of the death of Senator Yvonne Miller. I had the privilege of serving with Senator Miller in the Senate of Virginia for the past 17 years. During that time I came to respect Senator Miller’s passion for the causes she believed in and her unwavering commitment to the best interests of the citizens she served. While Senator Miller and I represented two different political perspectives and often disagreed on the best way to address the challenges facing Virginia, I always knew that she did what she thought was in the best long term interests of our state, and that is what political leadership should be about.

“During her 28 years of service in the Virginia General Assembly, Senator Yvonne Miller made her mark in many ways. She was an outspoken advocate for public education and higher education, but her greatest passion came from her efforts to protect the interests of the least fortunate among us. Throughout her career Senator Miller reminded us of the importance of these significant causes, and she effectively fought for the things she believed in, whether she was in the majority or the minority. She was an effective and capable public servant and she will be missed by all who knew her and served with her.”

Senator Mark Warner:

Yvonne Miller was always ‘Senator Miller’ to me. You could count on her always to speak truth to power.

She earned her place in Virginia history by breaking-down political barriers for women and African Americans. She also earned our abiding respect through her passionate and tenacious service on behalf of those Virginians who had no voice.

I join all Virginians in mourning her passing and celebrating her remarkable life.

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim:

This is an extremely sad day in the City of Norfolk and the Commonwealth. Senator Yvonne Miller was one of the great public servants of our time. She never forgot why she ran for office, never forgot who she was elected to serve. She was a relentless advocate for the young, the disadvantaged and members of the community who did not have a voice. We will miss her greatly.


4 thoughts on “RIP Senator Yvonne Miller

  1. Maybe my favorite member of the Virginia Senate. I worked for the Democratic Caucus for a while and she was always a pleasure to write for in preparing press conferences and media events, because whatever you gave her to say came out like it had been carved into a mountain side by God’s own thunderbolts. In that way, I always thought of her as Virginia’s own Barbara Jordan.

    One of the few people left in the legislature who’d stand up and tell it like it was, no matter what.

    We’ll miss her and we’ll not soon see her like again.

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