ELKTON — Nathan Miller had no plans to be a lawyer, but after a turn of events in his senior year of college, he decided to attend law school.
Fifty years later, he still has no regrets.
Miller, 75, was recognized for his 50 years of service in law at Monday evening’s Elkton Town Council meeting.
He has had many successful years in the business — from being a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, to currently representing Elkton, Strasburg, Grottoes, Page County and the Luray/Page County Airport Authority. He also is the managing partner in the law firm Miller, Earle & Shanks.
Although Miller graduated from Bridgewater College with a bachelor’s degree in economics, he decided his senior year that he wanted to pursue law.
“I was focused on economics and getting a job in that field, but then my senior year I took a business law course and I liked the course so much I decided I’d study law,” Miller said in a Tuesday interview.
After applying for law school at the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law at the end of his first semester of senior year, he didn’t hear back and decided to take a job as a teacher at Ladd Elementary School, in Waynesboro, following his graduation in 1965.
Right after taking the job, he received a call saying he had been wait-listed for law school, but at that point he knew he wouldn’t be attending that year.
“I told the dean that I had already committed to teaching school for a year and I didn’t feel that I should break that contract,” he said. “The dean told me that because I was so candid about it all, he’d put me on the accepted list for 1966.”
For Miller, his experience since graduating law school in 1969 has been a roller coaster, but the most rewarding career he could have ever expected.
He said his time serving in the House of Delegates from 1972-75 and Senate from 1975-83 taught him many things, including how to deal with municipal government.
“It was one of the most rewarding things to represent my districts in the House and Senate and to know that the citizens were confident in electing me at the state level,” he said. “And when you deal with municipal government, you’re dealing with politics at the very local level, which has also been a satisfying part of my career.”
Miller has been serving as Elkton’s attorney since around 2000.
He said he has enough political background to help the Elkton officials navigate their obligation to the law versus what citizens want their officials to do.
“There’s a lot of give and take that elected officials are required to do when they manage issues with the citizens, and that’s of great interest to me to help them,” he said. “As new council comes and goes, it’s my job to learn them and their particular interest and help them learn how they should go about being an elected official when the law is involved.”
Miller experiences people day in and day out who are “desperate” to get their problems solved and said he enjoys being able to help them understand the law and be a part of a solution.
“I’ve seen it throughout my whole career — people get panicked, don’t understand the law, court or legal system and so I’ve been able to help many people in that regard,” he said.
With Miller’s many different honors he’s received, such as being named the Bridgewater Virginia Jaycees Outstanding man in 1972, Harrisonburg Virginia Jaycees Outstanding man in 1978 and named one of the Distinguished Young Alumns of Bridgewater College among many other titles, he said he wouldn’t be where he is today without some of the role models he has had personally and professionally.
His work ethic and values, he said, come from his parents, Garland and Edith Miller.
They both had small businesses in Rockingham County and “were good people who always tried to help the community grow.”
“They would be role models for any person, but especially for me,” he said. “They had a religious fundamental basis to lead their lives and were just solid people.”
When it came to teaching Miller the ropes of being a trustworthy and reliable lawyer, Miller said Donald Litten had the biggest effect on him.
Litten was the former partner in Litten and Sipe.
“When I was a young associate at the firm, he was very demanding but very helpful in guiding my understanding of the law and how to practice law in a community like Rockingham County,” Miller said.
Even with 50 years of experience under his belt and a lot of dreams accomplished, Miller has no plans to retire and hopes to be in practice for a number of years down the road.
“I want to be able to continue to take on any challenges that my clients may have in order to help them solve their problems,” he said. “As long as I am healthy and my mind is still in good shape, I will continue to practice.”
Although Miller does not know what life will bring in the future, he said he’s looking forward to those challenges.