The Reverend Roger C. Miller
Although I had not seen or spoken to Roger in at least three decades, I loved him, and his death leaves a hole in my heart.
I met Roger Miller when he came to Detroit as associate minister at Plymouth Congregational Church UCC. He and his wife Gloria Bradford, an interracial couple, arrived in Detroit in the early 1960s. Within 18 months, Gloria had died of cancer.
One of Rev. Miller’s responsibilities was the Youth Fellowship. That is where I first got to know him. Rev. Miller prepared us for confirmation, taught our youth Sunday school class, and took us to cultural events. The one I remember best is the play JB by Archibald MacLeish.
My younger sister Patricia was with Rev. Miller at Youth Fellowship 23 July 1967 when the rioting began in Detroit. When I returned home from dropping her off at church, the telephone was ringing. It was Rev. Miller saying he was bringing her home because there was a riot going on. He loaded all the kids into the church van and took every one of them home. I was worried about Rev. Miller’s safety driving around with a vehicle full of black kids during a race riot, but he was fearless, and his mission was a success: In less than an hour, Patricia was back home.
I saw Roger each time I came to Detroit throughout my college years and beyond. Our relationship evolved, and he visited me in Knoxville TN and New York NY. I visited him in, of all places, Grand Junction CO where I am sure I was the only African American in town.
I turned down Roger’s invitation to go to Mbandaka, Zaire with him in the mid-1970s. We corresponded by mail for a few years after that and then lost touch.
This summer, I saw on Facebook that Roger was ill, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to reconnect. The next news I had was that he had died on 28 November 2017, 2 days short of his 80th birthday. Roger was an important influence and early love in my life, and I miss his presence in this world. I couldn’t be at his funeral, but there will be a memorial service for him this year, and I hope to be there . . .