By John Porter
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate, A. Melvin Miller was honored on Thursday, November 17, 2022, as the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) named its headquarters on Wythe Street in his memory. Miller, who died in 2015 at the age of 83, served as ARHA board chair from 1970-77 and 2001-2012.
One of his hallmark accomplishments was an agreement between ARHA and the city that no public housing in Alexandria would be demolished unless there was a provision for a one-to-one replacement, an agreement which still guides housing in the community.
Keith Pettigrew, ARHA Chief Executive Officer, said, “I can think of no more appropriate name to grace this building than that of A. Melvin Miller.” He added, “Mr. Miller dedicated his life to helping those who struggle financially, and his efforts included working tirelessly to improve housing opportunities in the city he loved.”
The ceremony included two unveilings—new lettering on the building with Miller’s name, and a bust of Miller that will be on display permanently in the building’s lobby.
“Melvin Miller understood that prosperity for our city can only come if we ensure basic human rights of all residents—including affordable housing,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “Naming ARHA headquarter for him will help remind current and future Alexandrians of that legacy.”
Merrick Malone, ARHA Board Commissioner, commented that Miller’s “legacy informs the work of ARHA every single day, and so I’m extremely proud that his name now graces our headquarters.”
In addition to Miller’s service to ARHA, he had a 35-year career at the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he served as Deputy Undersecretary during the Carter Administration, and Assistant Deputy Secretary from 1997 until his retirement in 2014. He also served eight years on the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia and on the Alexandria School Board from 1986 to 1993, including two years as chair.
One of Melvin’s two surviving children, Marc Miller, spoke on behalf of the family, sharing that they are extremely grateful that their father’s legacy will continue.
“This building naming not only honors our father’s life’s work but ensures that the principles for which he fought—including affordable housing for all residents—live on,” he said.
A small group of like-minded community members—Willie Bailey, Lynnwood Campbell, John Taylor Chapman, Kerry Donley, Florence King, George Lambert, and myself—initiated efforts prior to the pandemic to name the building after Miller. While two members of the committee have passed on, those remaining are extremely pleased that the effort they began has resulted in this well-deserved recognition.