Students at Loren Miller Elementary School might remember last week forever.
Within just a few days days, the kids got a visit from the family of the Los Angeles civil rights attorney whose name christens the school, heard from an author who wrote a book about Miller and took a field trip to the Huntington Library in San Marino, which has a permanent display of Miller’s works.
“Everything aligned so perfectly,” said Julio Hanson, the school’s assistant principal.
Little did Hanson know that things would turn out this way. At an assembly held shortly after the school year started, the former teacher asked the students what they knew about the school’s namesake? That question, in turn, prompted him to learn more about Miller, too.
They learned that Miller dedicated himself to fighting legal discrimination, attacking housing bias, in particular. He argued landmark rulings that ended racial housing covenants and challenged the legality of housing Japanese citizens and foreign nationals in camps during World War II.
Miller also drafted most of the briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, a landmark court case that ended legal segregation in public schools. Later, then-Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown appointed him in the mid-1960s as a Municipal Court Justice.
His father a former slave, and his mother a white Midwesterner, Miller grew up in rural Nebraska under harsh poverty, fueling his fire for social justice. So respected was he that the State Bar of California presents an annual award in his honor for providing legal services to the poor.
Despite those historical achievements, later generations still struggle to recall his name but Hanson and others are keeping the legacy relevant. Shortly, after Hanson asked students to learn more about Miller, there was a stroke of good fortune. Hanson’s friend told him about an author, Dr. Amina Hassan, who soon would be signing her new book about Miller at the Huntington Museum.
Hanson attended the September event and met the author, Dr. Amina Hassan; Miller’s granddaughter, Judge Robin Miller Sloan, and museum representatives, all of whom pledged their support to visiting the school. Those promises led to a magical three days for the students.
The museum provided buses for the field trip, with more students taking the journey in January. Judge Robin Miller Sloan brought to the school her husband, Michael Sloan, who is an attorney, and her sister-in-law, Sharon, a commissioner who is married to Loren Miller’s grandson. And Dr. Hassan, making an online presentation, told the students more about Miller. Many were impressed to meet an author.
For Hanson, the events were fulfilling. “I had to step back and say, ‘wow’, this is really happening,” Hanson said. “People were so forthcoming in making this happen. These are memories the kids won’t forget. They’ll always remember meeting the family, or attending the library.”
Especially for a kid named Ruben. Inspired by Hanson’s call to learn more about Miller, Ruben returned every day for a week to tell the assistant principal a new fact he learned about Miller. This led to high praise and pink tickets that Ruben cashed in for prizes.
Describing his experience in a recent column published in the Los Angeles Sentinel, Hanson wrote: “Thank you Loren Miller for inspiring Ruben who inspired me to learn more about you. You will never be forgotten.”