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Community remembers Martin Luther King Jr.

Jeff Miller speaks at event honoring Martin Luthern King Jr. Jeff Miller speaks at event honoring Martin Luthern King Jr.

Before World War II, Bert Miller and a friend, Singleton Williams, raised a garden together. When they went downtown to sell their produce, Miller did better than Williams, Bert's son Jeff Miller said.

"Singleton told me he found out pretty quickly that Dad could get more money for the vegetables than he could, because he was white," Miller said, "and he told Dad he would do his chores, so Dad could go up and do the selling, and they could make more money and they'd have more money to split.

"Singleton was smart. He told me it was just good business. So he figured out how to work the system."
Miller, who spoke at the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast on Monday, told the audience of more than 250 that, his household, in the segregated Southern town of Hendersonville, taught acceptance, not prejudice. He gave credit to his parents, Bert and Kay Miller.
"They didn't tell me what to do," he said. "They showed me by example. I don't ever remember being told to treat everybody the same."
"One of his closest friends was a man named Singleton Williams, an African-American man that was bigger than life to me," said Miller, who was elected to the Hendersonville City Council in November. "He was several years older than my dad but they were very very good friends, and he lived with my dad and his brothers."
AfricaThompsonAfrica Thompson performs at the MLK Jr. Unity Breakfast at BRCC.Williams worked all his life in the laundry.
"The only other job Singleton ever had was with the United States Army. He and Dad both enlisted after the war started and they both came back and they went to work together back at the laundry," he said. "Only difference is Singleton came back with three Bronze Stars. He was at Normandy, he was at the Rhine and he always told me when I was young about how cold he was in the service. And that was because he was at the Battle of the Bulge.
"I didn't know it until I found his discharge papers one day. I gave them to my dad. My dad took took them to the Social Secueity office, and they tripled his Social Security pay. He was a big man, he had a great smile and he was such an influence on me. He had a laugh that was almost a scream and you knew when he was really tickled, and I'd always run back to see what he was laughing at."
Williams worked until age 80, and in retirement he remained close to Bert Miller.
"My dad and Singleton saw each other every day," Miller said. "They shared McDonald's French fries and cheeseburgers and cartons of milk, and when Singleton died my father was standing right beside him. He was rubbing his head telling him everything was OK. The two loved each other. I loved Singleton. He set such an example for me that there is no difference."
Miller recalled many friends in the black community who positively influenced him. He had adult mentors and teachers who were black and white.African-American workers at the cleaners made music as they worked.
"During those times there were many African-American ladies that worked at the laundry," he recalled. "In the summer I remember we would work two shifts and the ladies would be in there folding the camp clothes, back when we actually folded camp clothes. They would sing and I would listen to 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and the old hymns. It was like angels singing to me."
Sponsored by the Henderson County Human Relations Council and BRCC, the event also featured performances by Africa Thompson and Lance Allen and keynote remarks by Derick K. Smith, a professor at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

The lessons he learned, Miller said, remain true today.

"We should never judge people by the color of their skin, who they worship or who they love," he said.