Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Frances Verdie Miller, Teacher Extraordinary

Frances Verdie Miller

When another baby girl was born to William J. "Bud" Miller (1849-1919) and Jane Malinda Collins Miller (1861-1931) that cold day, December 4, 1895, on the Choestoe farm owned by her father, the parents gladly welcomed their fourth of eight children. Little did the parents realize then that the daughter they called Verdie would grow up to be an outstanding educator.

Here is a brief story of the life of Frances Verdie Miller, educator.

Verdie's mother, Malinda Jane, was a granddaughter of Thompson Collins (ca 1785-ca 1858) and Celia Self Collins (ca.1787-1880), among the first settlers in Union County. Verdie's grandparents were Francis ("Frank") Collins (1816-1864) and Rutha Nix Collins (1822-1893). Unfortunately, the young Frances Verdie did not get to know her Grandparents Collins, for both had died before she was born in 1895.

Frances Verdie Miller's siblings were James Francis "Frank" Miller who married Addie Dean; Gordon Spence Miller who was born and died February 3, 1889; Ruth L. Miller who was born and died September 5, 1890; Stephen Grady Miller (1891-1932) who married Birdie Bryan and became the father of Jane Miller and Zell Bryan Miller, (the latter a long-time Lieutenant Governor, then Governor of Georgia, and U. S. Senator); Lannie R. Miller who married Dr. S. Vanus Hunter; Benjamin Dwight Miller (1898-1965) who married Laura Saxon; Bascom Hedden Miller, better known by his initials, B. H. (1900-1967), a noted barber of Union County, who married Idell Sampson Everett; and William Fletcher Miller who married Fannie Mae Shuler.

To earn a living for his wife and family of six living children, "Bud" Miller farmed his bottom land in Choestoe District and owned and operated a country store.

Devout in their living and practice of their faith, "Bud" and Jane Miller were regular church attendees and made sure their children were likewise regular in activities of the Salem Methodist Church.

Verdie and her siblings attended Choestoe School, a school which normally had a large enough enrollment for two teachers, one for the primary grades and another for the upper grades. She was apt at learning and had no trouble continuing her education at Young Harris Academy where she went for her high school studies. She graduated from Young Harris College where she excelled in the study of mathematics. She later graduated from the University of Georgia where she received a double major, one in mathematics and the other in English.

Although a beautiful lady, Verdie chose a teaching career over marriage and family. Remaining single all of her life, she devoted herself to educating students.

She was always close to her brother, Stephen Grady, who was four years her senior. When Dr. Joseph A. Sharp, a beloved teacher at Young Harris College, became president of Emory-at-Oxford, both Stephen Grady and Verdie took jobs teaching at that academy and junior college.

When Dr. Sharp made the decision to return to Young Harris as president of the college, the Miller brother and sister were elected to the faculty. Grady Miller was head of the Department of History and served as Academic Dean at Young Harris until his death in 1932. Verdie Miller taught Mathematics, English and Latin at Young Harris. During her early years of teaching, Verdie's beloved father, "Bud" Miller died on July 7, 1919. Her mother, Jane Malinda Collins Miller, died January 4, 1931. They were buried in the Old Choestoe Cemetery where their gravestones may be viewed today.

In 1942, Frances Verdie Miller made a move to LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. Although it is unusual for a person to have expertise in both mathematics and English, these were the subjects for which Verdie was qualified to teach. Noted as an expert professor, she touched many students during the five years she was a classroom teacher at LaGrange College.

In 1947, LaGrange College officials named Verdie Miller as Dean of Women. She held that position for ten years until 1957. Longing for the classroom, she returned to teaching until her retirement in 1964.

Her achievements read like a "Who's Who Among Famous Women." She was a member of the American Association of University Women, the Georgia and National Deans of Women, the Delta Kappa Gamma National Women's Educational Society, and the LaGrange Women's Club.

But foremost in her achievements was her faithfulness to First United Methodist Church in LaGrange. There she led women in Sunday School from 1947 through 1966. A room at the church bears her name as the "Verdie Miller Sunday School Class."

When the portrait of Miss Miller was unveiled at a special ceremony, the then pastor of the church, the Rev. Dr. Reynolds Greene, praised her for her contributions to education. But her humility and leadership as a teacher of the Word of God prompted Dr. Greene to conclude: "Her Christian character is a living example for the class named in her honor."

From her retirement in 1964 until her death on September 30, 1968, Frances Verdie Miller continued to make her home in LaGrange, to visit family and friends, and to be an example to others.

From humble roots on a farm in Choestoe, Frances Verdie Miller went out to make a difference in the lives of countless students and others touched by her influence.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 31, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

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