William Miller

(1890—1970) local politician

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(1890–1970). Labour activist and Plymouth city councillor, among those early black representatives elected to local government bodies in England. The son of a Sierra Leonean father and a white British mother, Miller was born in Stonehouse, Devon. He attended local schools, worked in the building industry, and during the First World War served in the Royal Flying Corps. Working as an electrician in Devonport dockyard, he was an active trade unionist and also a member of the Labour Party. In 1925 he was elected to Plymouth City Council, a position in which he served with various interruptions for most of his life. In 1938, concerned about the safety of people in the city in event of war, Miller became a civil defence warden. When the city was heavily bombed in 1941, he unofficially organized the evacuation of many women and children. For this he was arrested and reprimanded. However, vindication came within a few days when the government ordered just such an evacuation. In the Labour electoral victories of 1945 Miller was returned to the City Council, now under Labour control, and, as chairman of the Housing Committee (1945–50, 1953–9), oversaw the post-war rebuilding and planning of Plymouth. His vision was not only for new houses but for new communities that would help to mould the lives of future citizens. Miller gained a national reputation for his leadership in civic housing. He became Deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth in 1962. His son Claude (b. 1915) was also a member of the City Council, becoming Lord Mayor in 2004.

From The Oxford Companion to Black British History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.

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