Women's History Month in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Celebrates: Yvonne B. Miller

Yvonne B. Miller (A&S ’73G) was the first black woman to serve in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. Miller was the eldest of 13 children and when she was young, her family relocated to Norfolk, Virginia where she attended the then-segregated public schools. In high school, her teacher helped her to secure a scholarship through the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, a sorority she would later be a part of, to attend what is now Norfolk State University for two years. From there she went on to earn her BS in Education at what is now Virginia State University (1956), her MA from the Teachers College at Columbia University (1962), and finally her PhD in Education from Pitt.

After Miller received her BS, she began teaching at Young's Park Elementary School in the Norfolk Public School system. For 12 years she taught there while working on her other degrees. Miller began her career in politics while serving as professor and head of the Department of Childhood and Early Education at her alma mater, Norfolk State University. She remained there for 31 years, retiring in 1999.

In 1983 Miller became the first black woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly and served two terms from 1984–1988. In 1987, she also became the first black woman elected to the Senate of Virginia and she held this position until she died in 2012. While working in the General Assembly she served on the budget-writing Finance Committee and was the first black woman to chair a Senate Committee: the Senate Transportation Committee.

At the time of her passing, Senator Miller was the longest-serving woman in the Virginia Senate.