Our community — our family — lost a pioneer this weekend; Coach Charlie Miller has passed at the age of 90.
Charlie was a special events coordinator for FCS from 1989-2001 and helped substantially change the path of the organization. He lived every one of our company values, and our commitment to justice for the underserved draws directly from his own personal mission in Orlando.
In 1954, the same year as the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education to outlaw segregation, Charlie Miller stepped off a bus in Winter Park. With a degree in education from Indiana State and his wife-to-be Margaret by his side, he went to work.
As head basketball coach at Hungerford High School in Eatonville, Charlie was a, if not the, driving force behind racial justice in the Orlando school system. His strong work ethic, play-by-the-rules attitude and persistent nature lead his teams to 11 state tournament appearances, eventually garnering the attention of the community and its need for integration. An undefeated season in 1968 was dashed with a controversial loss in the state finals. One year later, Hungerford won that elusive championship.
His calm, deliberate commitment continued in stops at Edgewater High School and Valencia Community College. Over 25 years, Charlie’s teams won 444 games (a winning percentage of 67%). Beyond the court, his former players went on to serve important roles in the community: teachers, principals, attorneys, judges, police officers, ministers. His legacy is in the leaders he developed.
His post-coaching career as an administrator at Valencia led him to volunteer with Florida Citrus Sports. The day after he retired from Valencia, Chuck Rohe offered him a full-time job.
His desire to improve the lives of his community led to the formation of the Florida Citrus Sports MVPs summer camp, which has given opportunities to underserved children for 25 years. Once again, the lasting impact is in what came next — the campers returning as counselors, the expanded curriculum aligning with Lift Orlando, community schools and the birth of the West Lakes Strong Families program to extend the mission of summer camp programming year-round.
In 1997, Charlie led the effort to bring the Florida Blue Florida Classic to Orlando. FCS wanted more games and FAMU and B-CU needed a new home — and Charlie helped make it happen. The crowds have never been bigger. As our relationship with the West Lakes communities grew, neighbors repeatedly cited the Classic, the nation’s largest HBCU game and an annual celebration of Black culture, as their favorite event.
Just one of those myriad accomplishments would be enough to call Charlie a hero for our community. Taken collectively, they tell the story of a man who leaves his community better than he found it. If you’ve touched our lives at FCS in any way, Charlie has touched yours. In 2013, we honored Charlie with the Howard Palmer Award, FCS’ highest honor for a lifetime of service. That year’s Member Celebration was held a touchdown drive from the site of Hungerford High.
Rest in peace, Coach. We hope to make you proud.