Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Herbert Miller

Boca Ciega's Herbert Miller a teacher who stuck with students

ST. PETERSBURG Over 36 years at Boca Ciega High School, Herbert Miller taught math to more than 10,000 students.

He walked through math problems calmly, talking about functions and variables as if he were recounting his travels.

If you didn't understand it one way, he would explain it another way until you did. If you flunked a test, you could take it again until you passed.

He handled disruptive students with a quip rather than a bark.

Current and former students recognized him at the store, in traffic, at the movies.

"It was always, 'Hey, Mr. Miller!' wherever we went," said Anita Nagel, 37, Mr. Miller's niece.

Mr. Miller, who also chaired the math department at Boca Ciega, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 69.

His father dabbled in several trades — among them shrimp fishing, real estate and bootlegging, according to Mr. Miller's brother, William — and died when Mr. Miller was 9. Mr. Miller never became an outdoorsman like his father. But by the time he reached St. Petersburg High School, he blossomed into a ladies' man, black hair swooped back in an Elvis-like pompadour.

"He was gorgeous," said Barbara Gipson, 70, a friend of 60 years. "The girls loved him."

He never married, but indulged his nieces as if they were his own. He took them on long car trips and rewarded them with $20 for every "A" grade. He remained a constant presence at family gatherings and a neutral corner in any dispute.

Sometimes he had to duck out of those gatherings to prepare for class. He went to bed early and was up by 3:30 or 4 a.m. He expected students to pull their weight.

"He valued the kids who were struggling and just couldn't make the grade," Nagel said.

He tried to keep up with their music, learning all the words to songs such as Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It? and Prince's When Doves Cry.

In his leisure time, he tended to orchids, researched his family's genealogy and read any of a dozen rotating magazines he subscribed to throughout his life, from National Geographic to Better Homes and Gardens. He also read widely about religions but did not evangelize any one of them.

In the summers, Mr. Miller traveled to the places he had read about, especially Europe and South America. He crowded his shelves with artifacts from those trips, such as Aztec replicas and enough photographs to fill 30 albums.

"His home was his sanctuary," said Kendall Murphy, 45, a friend and former student. "When people came to visit, he couldn't wait for them to leave."

He logged his expenses in green notebooks. His mother, Anita, trained him in childhood to record every dollar.

"I have ledgers from the last seven years," Nagel said. "It's almost like a diary. I know what he was doing that whole time."

He cared for his mother through her dementia and decline. Sometimes he took her to the beach, pushing her wheelchair over the sand. She thought she lived on a cruise ship. He played along.

Mr. Miller suffered a massive heart attack in October and never fully recovered. In the last day of his life, as family members stood near Mr. Miller's bed at Edward White Hospital, someone mentioned his teaching career at Boca Ciega.

Linda Bowen, an intensive care nurse who was in the room, was startled by the remark. Bowen, 48, was a sophomore at Boca Ciega in 1977 and had taken geometry. Suddenly she recognized the man on the bed she had not seen in 32 years.

"Wow," Bowen said. "He taught me math."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Herbert T. Miller II

Born: May 10, 1939.

Died: April 27, 2009.

Survivors: brother, William; and nieces Nedra Miller and Anita Nagel.

Boca Ciega's Herbert Miller a teacher who stuck with students 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Floridians' health care now at risk in Washington


    The health care of millions of Floridians is now at risk. The U.S. Senate's dramatic vote Tuesday to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will happen is a dangerous gamble with American lives and the national economy. Barring an unexpected bipartisan compromise, a handful of …

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically returned to the Senate for the first time since his brain cancer was diagnosed and cast the key vote that enabled Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie and allow the health care debate to proceed.
  2. Former Marine from Florida dies fighting for Kurdish militia

    ORLANDO — A former Marine who secretly traveled to Syria earlier this year to battle the Islamic State was killed while fighting for a Kurdish militia, his father said Tuesday.

  3. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube


    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]
  4. FWC investigates viral video of shark getting dragged behind speeding boat (w/video)


    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  5. Cheers, whoops for McCain's return, then impassioned speech


    WASHINGTON — In high drama at the Capitol, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday delivered a crucial vote in the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law, a win for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, and then leveled a broadside at how the GOP got there.

    In this image from video provided by C-SPAN2, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is embraced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. as he arrives of the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. [C-SPAN2 via AP]