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ARHA renames headquarters to celebrate local civil rights champion

A. Melvin Miller building (image courtesy ARHA)

Last week, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) gave its headquarters an official name — one honoring a local civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate.

The newly christened A Melvin Miller Building honors A. Melvin Miller. After serving two years in the army, Miller move to Alexandria in 1958. Miller launched a criminal law practice but worked pro bono on school desegregation issues. Miller served as spokesperson for The Secret Seven, a group of Black civil rights pioneers in Alexandria. Miller was chair of ARHA from 1970 to 1977 and from 2001 to 2012.

One of Miller’s greatest contributions to affordable housing, a release from ARHA said, was the negotiation of Resolution 830, which states that no public housing in Alexandria would be demolished unless there’s a one-for-one unit replacement.

“Resolution 830 is one of Melvin Miller’s crowning achievements,” ARHA Board Commissioner Merrick Malone said in the release. “It is the guiding principle that ARHA continues to follow and exceed when redeveloping the agency’s properties. His legacy informs the work of ARHA every single day, and so I’m extremely proud that his name now graces our headquarters.”

Over 35 years of public service, Miller worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and served as Assistant Deputy Secretary at HUD from 1997 until retiring in 2014.

“My family is extremely grateful that my father’s legacy will live on in this way,” Marc Miller, one of Melvin Miller’s two surviving children, said in the release. “If he and our mother Eula were here, I’m sure they’d echo that gratitude. This building naming not only honors our father’s life’s work but ensures that the principles for which he fought — including affordable housing for all residents — live on.”

The building includes a bust created by Tatyana Shramko, a sculpture artist with a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

“I can think of no more appropriate name to grace this building than that of A. Melvin Miller,” said ARHA Chief Executive Officer Keith Pettigrew in the release. “Mr. Miller dedicated his life to helping those who struggle financially, and his efforts included working tirelessly to improve housing opportunities in the city he loved. His legacy is far-reaching and long-lasting. Now, with his name on our headquarters, we know that future generations of Alexandrians will learn of his work and his impact.”