Newspaper Articles

Des Moines Tribune
June 26, 1964

Will Join Rights Aides in Mississippi

By Lillian McLaughlin

An Audubon coed who never had known a Negro “as a person” before she entered Drake University three years ago is planning to join other student civil rights volunteers in Mississippi next month.

She is Patti Miller, 21, a junior majoring in music education, the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Donald B. Miller. Her father is principal of Audubon High School

Miss Miller’s application has been accepted by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), but she has not yet received an assignment.


A summer student at Drake, she was unable to attend the orientation program at Oxford, Ohio, but will get this training at Edwards, Miss. (near Jackson), where she will report first, probably in mid-July.

She has volunteered, Miss Miller said, because it is something she “has to do.”

“I have to live what I’ve been saying,” she said. “I hope to become involved as a Christian, become part of a movement, part of a Christian concern.”

She is apprehensive about what awaits her and other volunteers in Mississippi, she admits.

She produced newspaper clippings telling of warnings given volunteers in training at Oxford about what they might expect.


A petite blonde, Miss Miller has a kitten-like charm in appearance. She speaks with sincerity and humility.

She had read books recommended by COC, acknowledge the influence “of persons on the campus whose view I respect.”

But she has obviously gone beyond these views and searched for her own answers.

The disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi has added to her apprehension, she says.

I have to admit I am afraid,” she said. “I hope I won’t go to pieces when I get down there.

“But my principal worry is for my parents.

“I can imagine what they will be going through, and I must make every effort to keep in touch with them.

“I have been unusually fortunate in my parents. Their reaction, when I first asked them if I could volunteer, was that if it was what I felt I had to do, then I should go ahead.

“A few days after I first talked to them about it, I received a letter from my father, repeating this.”


Awaiting her assignment, Miss Miller is avidly studying the instruction sheets sent her.

These include two typewritten pages suggesting materials that volunteers who will work in proposed community centers or freedom schools should bring if possible.

These range from paper clips and rolls of butcher paper, to tape recorders, phonographs, typewriters.

“Many people who want to help can provide these needed items,”Miss Miller said. (Her personal concern is how she’ll “manage that butcher paper roll on a bus.”)

No Shorts

Women volunteers are advised to bring light, cool clothing – no slacks, shorts, etc. Men are advised not to bring Bermuda shorts. Each volunteer is asked to bring a a sleeping bag.

Volunteers must have $500 for bond money.

“I told my parents that if I got jailed several times, there’d go my tuition next fall,” Miss Miller said.

Volunteers also are told to bring about $60 over their bus fare, and are advised they should receive $10 or $15 a week from home (her parents will send this, Miss Miller said).

Choir Director

Some of the money for the expedition Miss Miller has earned by directing the choir at Forest Avenue Baptist Church.

Her family has been active in the Methodist Church throughout her life, and when she came to Drake she moved into the Methodist student life of the campus, Miss Miller said.

During her sophomore year she went through “the usual stage” of doubt and rejection of religion, which to some students, she said, “doesn’t seem relevant any more, doesn’t speak to Now.”

But she remained active in the Wesley Foundation, Methodist campus organization, was its president last year. Her period of doubts passed, she said.

She has made trips with the Wesley group to study conditions in the south, also to Washington, D. C.

During her first year at Drake, Miss Miller began to make friends with various Negro students, the first of their race she had ever known. (She said she knows of no Negroes who ever have lived in Audubon.)

She worked with Des Moines Youth for Betterment of Human Relations, next year will be the Student-Faculty Council’s human relations chairman.

“Average Student”

She describes herself as “an average student” with something of an activity bug. She laughs as she counts the “elections I’ve lost,” in part, she suspects, because of her interracial friendships.

She has volunteered for one month’s duty in Mississippi, in community centers, freedom schools or voter registration, listed on her application in that order of preference.

When she returns she will go to South Dakota for a leadership training conference of young Methodists. She plans after graduation to apply to the Methodist Board of Missions for duty as a short-term missionary and would like to spend two years teaching in Africa, she said.

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