Research center named for Millers established at Historic Natchez Foundation

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, January 21, 2020

NATCHEZ — The Historic Natchez Foundation announced the creation of a center dedicated to the vision established by former directors Ron and Mimi Miller.

Friday’s unveiling of the Miller Center for Historic Preservation culminated an evening that celebrated the work of the Millers, who came to Natchez in the 1970s and devoted their lives to the area. The celebration was part of HNF’s annual meeting at his headquarters on Commerce Street.

“From creating the foundation to saving buildings around town, professionally and personally, to events like the balloon festival, formerly known as the balloon race, their fingerprints are all over Natchez and it is the better for it,”  Executive Director Carter Burns said.

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The celebration also included a presentation of a key to the city to the Millers by Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell.

Burns said the new center will be the research arm of the Historic Natchez Foundation. The center will conduct scholarly research, create publications, host scholars and organize lectures, conferences and special events.

“It will continue the work of the Millers to discover, document and preserve all aspects of Natchez history,” Burns said.

Ron Miller served as director of the foundation for approximately 30 years, starting in 1979. Mimi Miller took over as executive director in 2008, when her husband went to the Gulf Coast to work for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Mimi Miller retired in 2018 after Burns was hired as director.

The foundation also presented awards to the following recipients Friday night:

  • The Mimi and Ron Miller Visionary Award was awarded posthumously to Neil Varnell for leaving his house and a portion of his estate to area organizations and charities and for his ardent support of the foundation.
  • Lifetime Member Recognition went to David Waldrop and Peg Wise, for making one of the largest cash donations to the foundation.
  • The George and Ethel Kelly Preservation Award went to two recipients. John Norris and Tate Taylor received the award for the restoration of the house Wyolah and their investment in other projects in the Church Hill community. Dr. Frederick Martin received the award for his restoration of the house at 207 Linton Avenue.
  • The Mary Postlethwaite History Award went to Robert Parnell, Mayor Darryl Grennell and the City of Natchez for the Proud to Take a Stand Monument.
  • Special Merit Awards went to the First Presbyterian Church for restoration work on the church, the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life for work on Temple B’Nai Israel, Kevin Miers for work on the 100 block of North Commerce Street and to Eric West and Charlotte Brent for work on 401 N. Commerce St.