Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Black History Story – Black Migration

Helen Ashford Miller, Former President of SEIU

Helen Miller was born and raised in Louisville, MS graduating from the Louisville Colored High School in 1955. She migrated to Chicago, IL shortly thereafter. She is presently 82 years old.

Helen Ashford Miller became one of the original founders of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 880 in Chicago, IL. There she helped fight for wage increases, health insurance, and for paid training of healthcare workers.

Helen began working as Vice President of SEIU in 1992, and while serving in that position, she worked alongside of President Barack Obama. She was elected President of the SEIU in 2004. Helen played an instrumental part in getting President Obama elected as Senator Obama of Chicago in 2005.

HELEN MILLER: FIRST HOMECARE WORKER ELECTED TO THE SEIU INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD (IEB), 2004 SEIU NATIONAL CONVENTION, San Francisco, California. In yet another milestone, SEIU LOCAL 880 PRESIDENT HELEN MILLER was elected to the SEIU National Executive Board at the 2004 SEIU International convention. Helen is noted for being one of the highest ranking black women to hold a leadership position in the SEIU to this day.

The Helen Miller Education and Training Center was establish and dedicated to Helen in 2007 in Chicago, IL. (see photo below) The center has assisted in helping over 20,000 healthcare and childcare providers.

She received a personal letter from then Senator Obama thanking her for all of her accomplishments. Helen then moved back to her home of Louisville, where she still resides.

Helen was just recently visited by, Keith Kelleher, a friend and former co-worker for many years. Keith is the Former President SEIU Healthcare IL & IN who retired in 2018. Keith presented Helen with an Operation Push Award, videos of her retirement party in 2007 and one of the 30th Year Anniversary of the Homecare Program that she assisted in establishing. Helen has numerous awards displayed in her Louisville home.

It’s such an honor to recognize and honor Helen Ashford Miller’s achievements for Black History Month 2019 in the exhibit at the Winston County Library. Thanks to Yvonne Norton and Gloria Turnipseed for assisting with this article. Both are members of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Louisville, along with Helen Ashford Miller. Rev. Cedric Wooten is their pastor.

Nettie Walker Jackson

Nettie Walker was born and raised in Louisville, MS. She graduated in 1961 from Noxapater High School. She migrated to Omaha, NE in 1962 and married a military man, Lylton ‘Jack’ B. Jackson in December 1965. He was moved to New York for one year until he was sent to Vietnam 1967 – 68. 

Nettie attended Skadron College of Business, San Bernardino, CA. graduating in 1968. After her husband returned from Vietnam, they moved to Montgomery AL during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She became the first African American to integrate Phoenix Furniture Store as a salesperson. It was during the time when African Americans had to go to the back to pay their bills. She could only sale small items which because of racism kept her from receiving large commissions. Eventually, all the African American wanted her to wait on them as support to her. The people in Montgomery County were very united and they were very happy to see me on that job. The manager and other whites were upset by that. She worked there one year and made good money before her husband was assigned to Hampton, VA. They also spent 3 years in Ramstein, Germany 1973-76. Then they were stationed in Great Falls, MT. She worked for Montgomery Ward’s there and continued that employment for 25 years. She worked there while in Hampton and Woodbridge, VA. After Montgomery Ward’s closed, she finished her career as a sale’s consultant for Thomasville Furniture Company. Nettie and her husband are retired and have lived in Woodbridge, VA for 34 years. They are the parents of two sons: Darren and Darryl Jackson. They have 5 grandchildren.

Submitted by: Elmetra Patterson