We met in 2007 and I wrote this piece about her in 2008. When Yvette was looking for someone to work with her for a few months as she prepared to take on the big job of Chief Judge of Georgia’s Court of Appeals, I was the one. We really hit it off. We still have lunch and talk girl talk. While our conversations are mostly about politics and how to make is as a woman through the “good-old-boy” network, we may even get some “guy” talk into our sessions. She is a brilliant lady who continues to make her mark throughout Georgia.
M. Yvette Miller – A Sister in the Spirit: Making History All of Her Life
By Bunnie Jackson-Ransom (written in 2008)
When we think of history makers, we usually visualize an individual in the senior season of his or her life. The Honorable M. Yvette Miller, newly appointed Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, is quite the exception. Judge Miller has been making history all of her life, and she is just getting started. The road leading to the seat she now holds as the Chief Judge of this high appellate court is paved with many historic accomplishments.
Judge M. Yvette Miller is the first African-American woman and the 65th Judge to serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals. She was originally appointed to this Court by Governor Roy Barnes on July 12, 1999 and has been re-elected statewide by the people of Georgia without opposition for two six-year terms, most recently in November 2006. She is making history again as the first African-American woman to be elected Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. During her two-year-term as Chief Judge, Judge Miller will be responsible for the administration of one of the busiest appellate courts in the country, and will act as the head of the Court for ceremonial purposes and for all communications.
M. Yvette Miller, born in Macon, GA, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Conrad N. Miller, and she has one sibling, Conrad N. Miller, Jr., M.D., also of Macon. She has achieved many “firsts” in the course of her education and her distinguished legal career. She attended St. Peter Claver Catholic School until 7th grade, when she and her mother led the integration of the Bibb County public school system in Macon, Georgia. Yvette was the first African-American student to attend 7th grade at Walter P. Jones School, and her mother was the first African-American teacher to teach 6th grade in that school. This is where she began making history. While attending law school, Yvette was selected as the first African-American woman to hold the title of “Miss Macon” – another history-making occasion.
She received her B.A. degree, cum laude, from Mercer University in 1977 and her J.D. degree
from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1980. Judge Miller also earned an LL.M. degree in litigation from Emory University School of Law in 1988 and an LL.M. degree in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004. When she returned to her home town this fall, to give a Woman’s Day speech at the New Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, we heard her former classmates and friends say that she was always smart and they expected her to achieve great things.
Early in her legal career, Judge Miller joined the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, where she was one of its first female prosecutors. As a prosecutor, Judge Miller handled serious felony rape and murder cases. She went on to represent the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) as senior in-house litigation counsel and was responsible for handling one-third of the agency’s civil litigation in the courts.
After a subsequent move to South Georgia, Yvette Miller once again broke new ground when she served as part owner, general manager and general counsel of the first minority-owned new Ford Lincoln-Mercury automobile dealership in Jesup, Georgia and also one of the first minority-owned dealerships in the state. At the same time, Judge Miller developed a private legal practice and became the first female attorney to practice in Jesup, Georgia and throughout the Brunswick Judicial Circuit. Still making history.
Judge Miller began acquiring judicial experience when she served as a part-time judge in the Magistrate Court of Fulton County from 1985-1989. In 1989, Judge Miller began her tenure as an Administrative Law Judge with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. In 1992, when Governor Zell Miller appointed her to serve as Director and Judge of the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, Judge Miller made history as the first woman, first African-American, and youngest person ever to hold that position. Four years later, Governor Miller appointed her to the State Court of Fulton County, and she was re-elected as a State Court judge without opposition in 1998.
An active leader in her profession and in the community, Judge Miller serves on the National Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal and the Advisory Board of the Girl Scout Council of Northwest Georgia. Among other positions, Judge Miller has previously served as: Chair of the Supreme Court Committee on Public Trust and Confidence; a Trustee of Leadership Georgia; and a member of the Board of Directors of Mercer Law School.
Judge Miller has received many awards and special recognitions for her professional achievements and public service. She was recognized for her accomplishments in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta from 2001 to 2006, and she was designated by the Georgia Informer as one of “Georgia’s Top 50 Influential Black Women” from 1991 to 2008. In 1997, she was awarded the Meritorious Service Award by the Mercer University Alumni Association. Most recently, Judge Miller was inducted into the Gate City Bar Hall of Fame in October 2008.
As busy as ever, today Judge Miller is a fellow of the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia and a member of the Lamar Inn of Court as well as a number of other professional organizations. Judge Miller is also a member of the Azalea City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She attends Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
I know Yvette Miller as a whirlwind of energy, always willing to pitch in and passionate about doing the right thing. She is my friend, my soror, my Links sister, and a fellow church member.
We are sisters in the spirit.