Longtime educator and coach in Bay County, Leon Miller, has passed away
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -It’s a sad farewell to a longtime educator and coach for our area, and a man who won’t soon be forgotten by the thousands he touched in some way. Leon Miller passed away Monday at the age of 89. Leon was a graduate of Rosenwald High School who went on to play college hoops in Texas. After earning his degree he came back to Rosenwald and led that school’s basketball program for many years. He then moved on to what was then Gulf Coast Community College where he helped coach and served as the Coordinator of Minority Services. This some video we shot last summer when two of his players from the 64-65 Rosenwald team, David Lee Jones Sr. and Samuel Fitz, made their way to his house to present the coach with a special blanket dedicated to their team, and to him. Jones saying at that time “He was a mentor to us, like a father figure, a pillar in the community.” And he added simply, “He’s just a nice gentleman!”
While reminiscing that day on basketball seasons from over 50 years ago, Coach Miller brought up one instance in particular that has stuck with him ever since.
Back in 1965, Florida Governor Leroy Collins told him he had set up a game for them to play in Selma, Alabama. Coach Miller said they got their own bus for the trip, which he drove, and headed there.
After the game, the team loaded up the bus. While doing so, they heard loud noises and gunfire. He told his players to duck down in the seats, and he hauled them out of town. That day was March 6, 1965.
The day before what would become known as Bloody Sunday. The beginning of the march from Selma to Montgomery with Martin Luther King, John Lewis and many more civil rights activists leading the protest that was a major turning point in the Civil Rights movement. Coach Miller and his team were all there the night before it began.
Coach Miller, who was honored at a Gulf Coast basketball game last season, was the first African-American Commissioner in the City of Lynn Haven and received the Distinguished Service Award at Gulf Coast, among other accolades. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Leon’s wife Lois, his daughter Rita, and his son Pat, a Mosley alum, who’s currently an assistant coach at his alma mater. Pat tells us the funeral for coach Miller will take place Saturday at 3 o’clock at New Bethel Baptist Church in Panama City.
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