Former Friars Point Mayor honoredBy JOSH TROY / THE PRESS REGISTER,
When former Friars Point Mayor Catherine Miller walked into the courtroom at the Coahoma County Courthouse Friday afternoon, everyone exclaimed that very word.
The Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office put together the surprise honoring Miller for being the first black female mayor of Friars Point as part of Black History Month in February. Miller is the TRIAD Director for the Sheriff’s Office and works with the elderly telling them about safety and scams and providing other services. She served as mayor from 2013 to 2017.
“Usually, people can’t surprise me,” said Miller after receiving the honor. “I was surprised today.”
Barbara Jakes, a receptionist at the sheriff’s office who served on the city council from 2009 to 2013, organized the event. She arranged it for Miller’s daughter, Danielle Jones, to bring her to the courthouse Friday afternoon.
“I hadn’t been around her,” said Jakes explaining how she surprised Miller. “Then, I really didn’t tell much of her family. The one I was scared of is that one right there, Danielle, because she can’t hold nothing, but she did good. She was in Clarksdale earlier and I asked her could she bring her back at 1? She said, ‘OK,’ and we got it done.”
Miller is a 1972 then-Coahoma Agricultural High School graduate and a 1974 then-Coahoma Junior College graduate with a degree in business administration. Her next stop was then-Alcorn College, but missed her mother and came home shortly after starting. She finished her four-year degree in business administration at Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis in 2005.
Miller had no intention of going into politics when she was younger.
“I was trying to better Friars Point,” Miller said.
“That’s why this is a shock that they did this for me because I don’t go on titles. I go on trying to make a difference for my city.”
By becoming mayor, Miller helped the town of Friars Point reach two milestones.
“What it is, is everybody said I’m the first black female, but I’m the first female, period,” she said.
Miller served as city clerk from 1986 to 2009 and then ran for mayor. She lost the mayoral race in 2009, won in 2013 and lost in 2017.
“I did not want to be the mayor,” Miller said. “Everybody said, ‘You need to be the mayor.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t have this job,’ but I didn’t know in actuality I was running the town because the mayor was never there.
“He was a part-time mayor. If you have a good city clerk, the city clerk actually runs little small town.”
The city clerk is currently an appointed position, but back in 1986, she had to be elected.
“I just wanted to make a difference in the town seeing the town go in a different direction,” said Miller on her decision to run for city clerk. “I thought we could have some advancement.”
Looking back on her tenure as mayor, Miller said her biggest accomplishment was changing the gas system. The city originally ran the gas system, but now Atmos Energy Corporation takes care of it.
“There were so many leaks,” Miller said. “The bills were just astronomical out of the box. They were just too high and the citizens could not pay the bills.
“We could have been gone as it was.”
Two of Miller’s good friends, Jakes and Barbara Morris, have been there for her every step of the way.
“I have two friends,” Miller said. “Both of them are named Barbara. Both of them have been in my corner from Day 1.”
Miller and Morris got to know one another when Morris was the Friars Point postmaster. Morris served as the project manager during Miller’s tenure as mayor.
“We became friends way before that,” Morris said. “I guess I was postmaster 40 years and got to know Cat and her family through the post office. We were prayer partners at, friends and prayer partners. Then we became just really close. Then I worked with her when she got mayor and I had retired.”
Jakes was proud of Miller’s accomplishments.
“February is Black History Month,” Jakes said. “I celebrate Black History and Black History Month. I’m just so happy to give her this small token of appreciation because this is the first black female – first female mayor overall – of Friars Point.”