Leroy "Pop" Miller
Share Leroy's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
As the turmoil of desegregation rocked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 1973, district leaders wanted a principal who could oversee the change at all-white East Mecklenburg High.

They turned to Leroy "Pop" Miller, who had earned a reputation for tough love and high standards, first at the all-black West Charlotte High, then as he helped desegregate Carmel Junior High.

Miller died Friday at 94, having spent the past decade living with family in Kansas City, Mo. On Sunday, generations of black and white Charlotteans shaped by his 37 years in education will remember him in services at Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church.

"A stern but very fair principal – that was his reputation," says former school board member Sarah Stevenson.

"He was an educator's educator," recalls former board Chair Arthur Griffin, who said Miller knew his students so well that he could catch Griffin, a student at rival Second Ward High, sneaking onto the West Charlotte campus to see friends.

"He really knew how to get the most out of people and to make people proud of being Eagles," says Jennifer Roberts, former chair of the Mecklenburg County commissioners and an East Meck student under Miller.

Miller became an industrial arts teacher at West Charlotte in 1945, after serving in World War II. His son, William "Skip" Miller, says he earned his nickname when he caught a student throwing wood chips into a power saw. Miller threatened to whip him, and the student pleaded with "Poppa Miller" to spare him, Skip Miller says.

He became assistant principal in 1963, and was named principal of the newly integrated Carmel Junior High in 1971. He took over East Meck in 1973, leading that school until his retirement nine years later.

Skip Miller, who was in junior high when his father took over East Meck, says CMS administrators knew Pop Miller had not only the academic skills but the leadership presence – he stood 6 feet 4, with an athletic build – to control the fights and riots that characterized integration at many schools. "Certainly it was a trying time," Skip Miller recalls.

Roberts recalls how Miller emphasized the value of academic accomplishment, making sure straight A students and National Merit scholars got the same steak dinners that star athletes got.

According to Observer archives, when Miller retired in 1982, students formed the word "Pop" on the football field and got a helicopter to fly Miller and his wife Sadie to see it from the air. Even after his retirement, he was repeatedly honored by a close-knit alumni community.

As a retiree, Miller made sure the community continued to support youth and schools, says the Rev. Sheldon Shipman, senior pastor at Greenville Memorial AME Zion. "He could just pull together a group of leaders and folks would basically say, 'Yes, sir!' and go do it," Shipman said.

In 2004, Miller moved to Kansas City to be closer to his son and to enjoy being a grandfather. He had been in failing health in recent months, including circulation problems resulting from frostbite to his feet in WWII, Skip Miller said.

A wealth of Charlotte history went with Pop Miller. Historian Pamela Grundy captured some of his memories in a 1998 interview on file with the UNC Southern Oral History Collection. In it, Miller voiced frustration with being remembered as a black principal, rather than just a successful one.

"I've always wanted to be a good person," Miller said. "When I go out and cut my grass, I want my yard to look better than any yard in this neighborhood. ... I'd say to the kids I wanted them to be the best in the state of North Carolina, and I wanted to be the best principal in the state."
Published in Charlotte Observer on Mar. 3, 2014.
Not sure what to say?
50 entries
October 21, 2016
Such great memories of a great man!!!! You will be remembered and loved always!
Trip Birmingham
April 18, 2016
Thanks Pop! God bless you for your works at East Meck High...sweet, sweet memories....
Sandra Beckham-Selassie
February 8, 2016
I will never forget pop Miller he was a great role model for West Charlotte students and our parents
Deloris Massey-Miller
August 3, 2015
Pop insisted that he come to our home to present my sister with her diploma . That really meant a lot to her and my family. RIP May we all meet again some day.
Joanne Katz Brown
May 2, 2015
I am so sorry. Pop was one incredible person. I had the good fortune to teach for him right after I graduated from college at Carmel Junior High. Soon I became a high school principal and we were always in constant contact. He and my father were the most influential role models in my educational career. I learned so much from him and tried to be a high school principal like Mr. Miller.
Mal Brown
March 12, 2014
What a fitting tribute to a fine man. A class act who impacted so many others on such a positive way. Skip, Mel and all of the family, you have much to be proud of.

Bob & Donna Fischgrund
March 11, 2014
Pop was a great educator as well as one of the finest man I ever knew he cared about everyone regardless of race, creed or color. He will be sadly missed
Chip Hood
March 10, 2014
Pop Miller was an amazing man and everything a principal should be. My time at East Meck made a lasting impression on me because of how he treated everyone. He had high expectations and always found a positive way to make his point. To be around Pop Miller was to know you were in the presence of someone who truly cared about those around him. We will miss you Pop.
Hal Groce
March 10, 2014
It says so much about "Pop" as I read through all of these touching messages from his former students. I too, went to East Meck and was in the class of 1978. You will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time.
March 10, 2014
RIP Pop...You were a great leader!! You were an even better human being!
Jerry Shaver
March 10, 2014
I'm sure you have messages from thousands of people as POP touched soooo many of us. I was one of many at East in the late 70s. He was always such a warm positive strong guiding light of a human. Even the pictures shown emit that warmth and human beauty right off the page. Thank you for sharing him with soooo many of us. Hopefully you can wrap yourselves in the eternal beauty that he was and will forever be..... He will always be with you and us all through the memories of that love and guiding example. Hugs to you all. ??
Randi Simon
March 10, 2014
To a man who truly made a difference.......thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us! To his family, may God give you HIS peace and strength during this difficult time. From a former 9th grade student at Carmel Jr. High.
Marianne Reuss Prophet
March 10, 2014
My prayer for "Pop Miller's" family is that you take comfort from the Lord, as he is the only one who can provide you with the comfort you need during this time of loss.
I was a student at East Mecklenburg, graduated June 1978, I have so many fond memories of this great man! I loved the way he would greet you as you walked in the school, he remembered your name etc. One of my favorite memories was that he always "knew" what was going on, he would come on the PA system in the middle of classes and say "I know who did it, and I will give you a chance to come see me, but if you don't I will find you", and he always did!! Pop always had the best interest of ALL students there at East Meck close to his heart! A great man that will be sorely missed!
Marianne Wiggins
March 10, 2014
POP MILLER,Will never be forgotten. A GREAT PERSON,You Will be missed POP MILLER!!!!!! CLASS OF '64 WEST
Doris Bowe
March 10, 2014
Skip - My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. Your former neighbor.
Deidre Collins Rogers
March 10, 2014
Thoughts and prayers to the Miller Family. Mr. Miller was truly a pioneer in helping shape the culture of African-American students during the 1970's. Great and honorable man!
Ronald Connelin
March 10, 2014
When I first came to Charlotte, 35 years ago you gave me some advise which molded my future and i took it ... out were so wise then .. rest in peace you have your wings
Wanda Fay Haskins
March 10, 2014
We will miss you Pop Miller! RIP
Nancy M.
March 9, 2014
I lost my earlier message " Pop" just like you told Chip you wanted to learn iPhone music ? I haven't learned my iPad your CARMEL COUGAR STUDENT . I was only " I " think today standing at service ! Carmel Cougar ! The service today was so wonderful . So glad to see other " Cougars" sign " in " thanks John Powell.

Today was such a WONDERFUL service for POP . I most enjoyed his BABY SISTER , " Marie" EVERYONE WHOM SPOKE it was so nice . MY HEART FOR THE MILLER FAMILY , I FEEL YOUR LOSS. I know Jordan was so alone not being able to be here today , but Pop so proud of him as well. POP DID FULFILL A FILLED LIFE and his other children , he never saw black or white , just love for CHILDREN and what he did . As REV . DR . SHELDON SHIPMAN spelled out meaning of POP's name today he lived the words of his name . BLESSED TO HAVE KNOWN HIM AND BE APART OF MY LIFE . Bill Gamble
March 9, 2014
Pop, Thank you for being a Great role model and a Father to soooo many.. Your warm smiles and huge hugs for each student was greeted daily.. Rest in Peace and you will truly be missed!! "Class of 1982"
Ella Hoyle
March 9, 2014
Pop was a great person! He was funny, but did not let student get away with horsing
around. Joyce Cannon Class of 1984
Joyce Cannon
March 9, 2014
God Bless "Pop" Miller
To "Pop's" immediate family ...

I just returned to Charlotte tonight after being out of town for a few days when I saw this sad announcement on http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/03/09/4754146/hundreds-gather-to-remember-east.html#.Ux0TRWeYbIU.

Principal Miller helped me become who I am, teaching me how to respect all people. He helped me adjust socially when I was a student at Carmel Jr. High School. Today, I am a 54 year old man who says "God bless you Pop, and thank you for being a great man".
John Powell
March 9, 2014
U will b missed!!!
Angela Mcham
March 9, 2014
One who really cared
Billy Cureton
March 9, 2014
We are very sorry for your lost. Pop had an integral effect on the lives of many young people. He certainly impacted my life in a positive way. My you find comfort from the God of comfort for your loss. Former student class of 71.
March 8, 2014
It took a very special person to navigate our Char-Meck schools during the early 70's. Pop made it look easy. He mad every student feel really good to be at East Meck.He was a most caring and fair individual. His warmth was so apparent and yet he was firm with the students who strayed off course. With Pop at the helm, we always felt like we were all going to be OK. We need more Pop Millers not just in our schools but everywhere.
-Carl Rosen '77
Carl Rosen
March 8, 2014
As an office assistant my junior year, it was an honor to sit at your feet as you shared your life's experiences. Over the years I have reflected on those lessons. You were the best principal and one of the greatest educators I knew. You are flying high like an eagle and you were the wind beneath our wind! RIP POP Miller. Cille Bridges class of 1975!
March 8, 2014
A Man of Honor
Carlton Frazier
March 8, 2014
POP..you played a major role in my life.For that i thank you.Rest in Peace
Class of 80
Carlton Frazier
March 8, 2014
Pop served the West Charlotte High School and community very well. It was a pleasure to have been a student at WCSH and seen him walk between his IA classroom to the Adm building insisting that we conduct ourselves in a decent and sophisticated manner. RIP, Pop, and my deepest sympathies to the family
Donna Epps Ramsey
March 8, 2014
HELENA Barber Cathcart
March 7, 2014
anita arriola
March 7, 2014
Vanessa Ray
March 7, 2014
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
class of 63
March 7, 2014
Pop always made every one of us feel like we were "his" kids. He knew everyone by name, and expected the best out of all of us. He made being an East Eagle great. My sincere condolences to his family. Although he has left us, his memory will live on. Fly high, Pop!
Kristin Kitterman Batsel
March 7, 2014
Gregg Renfrow
March 7, 2014
Pop Miller will be deeply missed. Thank you Pop for playing such an important part in my life, instilling values, integrity and self worth. Rest in peace. Susan Gertzman
March 7, 2014
Outstanding man! He will truly be missed!
John Townsend
March 7, 2014
As one of Pops' knuckleheads and frequent recipient of the "pinch" as well as the "thumb" at Carmel JH, I always knew that Pop was all about his kids. He never gave up on anybody and for that I'm grateful. I hope to one day hear your whistle as you stroll the halls of heaven. I'm truly blessed to have known you. Rest in peace, "Jody"
Joe Helms
March 7, 2014
RIP Pop. We all need a Pop Miller in our lives.
Richard Queen
March 7, 2014
Mitchell Oestriech--Atlanta Ga
March 7, 2014
I remember a kind soul who had a smile as big as the sun. He greeted us each day with that smile. So proud to say that I was an East Meck Eagle under Pop Miller, class of 81
Trish Sacco
March 7, 2014
"Pop" I love you, you have always been a mentor in my life, and I will never forget you. its funny I read all these entries and I remember you telling me I was a princess, but most of all I remember you telling me to stay away from trouble. Well, Pop, I did and have three kids that I wish would have had the opportunity to meet you. Rest In Peace, you will be missed, Lisa Graham Rowan
March 6, 2014
Pop Miller was such a stirring role model. I can remember moments where he was (justifiably) angry with us and moments when he was so happy and celebratory. His challenge to be "Golden Eagles" rather than "Dirty Birds" still resonates with me. It was an honor to serve as a senior class president and graduate from East Meck under Pop Miller's leadership.
Craig Detweiler
March 6, 2014
Skip, your dad was a gentle giant. His gift from God was to lead, encourage and motivate each and every student that was in his care as a teacher and administrator.. We never knew his first name, he was Pop Miller to all of us. Thank you for sharing him.
Mary Howey Brinson
March 6, 2014
Pop Miller was always a fair and decent man. He treated everyone as equals. When I skipped school to go and eat lunch with friends, my punishment was to wear a dress for two weeks. Those were two long weeks. Pop will always be remembered as an honorable man. He will be missed... Class of '81
Erica Warshawsky-Katz
March 6, 2014
Pop was an example for all young men and a great teacher. A man of much wisdom.
Charlie and Frankie Byrd
March 6, 2014
Pop your soul and your message will live forever. Thank you for giving us your commitment and "trying" to keep us focused on our journey-Sheila Mirchandani Class of 1981
March 6, 2014
What a wonderful man - I will always be a "princess" because that's what he called me.
Betsy Smith
March 6, 2014
Deborah Howey echols
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences