Randall and Betty Miller defied local custom and married in Selma, Ala. during a time, 25 years ago, when racial tension was still high. They remembered being faced with many challenges because of the racial divide in Selma, but it only made their relationship stronger. Now, they are one of Selma’s leading power couples.
He’s black, she’s white.
Randall is considered to be the wealthiest black man in the city after inheriting a successful funeral home when his father died 32 years ago. He was warned that he would go broke if he insisted on marrying a white woman. The funeral home sits next to the First Baptist Church on Saint Phillips Street. The Miller’s Funeral Home is the one almost all African-Americans turn to when a family member dies. Although some whites have used Miller’s, most of his clients are black–and he attributes that to tradition.
“Local funeral homes are more or less on racial lines,” he said. “I bury some whites, but 90 percent of the people I funeralize are black. White funeral homes bury a very small number of blacks. Just like barbers you know, black men go to black barbers and white men go to white barbers.”
“It’s just a tradition. It’s no difference in the business, either one can do the same thing,” he said.
While some funeral homes still follow the tradition of segregation in death, Randall believes black and white people can enjoy life together.
“Black and white can live together in this town,” he said. “They do socialize together, but the media doesn’t paint that picture. They paint the picture of this being a racist community, ‘whites hate blacks, blacks hate white, but that’s not true. There’s a different image of Selma that the public needs to know.”
On April 26, the Millers hosted a garden party at their home in Selma. They set up a big white tent in a section of their three-acre back yard. A hired parking attendant guided luxury cars into parking spaces. Joyce Rylee, owner of Joyce’s Catering, managed a buffet table located closer to their home.
“We do a garden party about every five years and this being our 75th anniversary, we wanted to incorporate the two together,” Mrs. Miller said, referring to the anniversary of the Entre Nous Club combined with the occasional garden party.
Among the guests at the party were white and African-American business owners, politicians, educators, and members of the Civil Rights Movement. They ranged in age from 30 to 80 years-old–and the party’s dress code included fancy hats.
By Ahjahnae LaQuer and Erin Irwin