Milteer: Suffolk’s successful politician promoted diversity
Published 7:46 pm Saturday, February 10, 2018
Curtis R. Milteer Sr., 87, dabbled in politics as student council president long before he was elected to Suffolk City Council.
Milteer graduated from East Suffolk High School in 1950, before the city was forced to integrate its school system. He recalled the disadvantages of his school compared to the city’s well-equipped white schools.
“The board of education did not really give the black schools the equipment and things they needed to teach classes,” Milteer said. “Especially in science. We had books, but there was no equipment.”
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He would go on to fight for a level playing field in his city for all citizens, regardless of race.
He studied at the P.D. Pruden Vocational Technical Center, Tidewater Community College and Norfolk State University, and received a Doctor of Humanities from Norfolk Seminary and College.
Milteer was awarded a Purple Heart during his service in the Korean War and retired as supervisor from Naval Air Rework Facility in North Carolina.
But his crowning achievements began when he was elected to City Council from the Whaleyville Borough in 1980. He has also served as mayor and vice mayor during his tenure and has been elected to an incredible 10 terms.
“I feel very proud of the things that we’ve accomplished that have helped improve quality of life for citizens in the area,” he said.
The councilman built his reputation by addressing the concerns of citizens day and night.
“If someone was to call him from the Whaleyville Borough at 2 o’clock in the morning, he would get out of his bed to see what they wanted,” said former Suffolk Councilman Charles F. Brown, who served with Milteer for about 16 years. “That’s how dedicated he is to the people of Whaleyville, and the city of Suffolk as well.”
Milteer spearheaded efforts to improve storm water management systems and utilities services for underserved Suffolk residents.
“We had grown people that never had bathrooms in their houses,” he said.
He helped secure funding to renovate the former Robertson Elementary School and turn it into Whaleyville Community Center, which opened in 2015. This gave residents exercise equipment, community programs in modern spaces and a new walking trail.
“It gave them a place where they could go to exercise and relax, and where there’s programs for all different ages,” he said.
Brown praised Milteer for his support that improved school conditions and gave police more tools to keep residents safer. He also said that the congressman convinced the city that diversity was a strength.
“Curtis Milteer has been instrumental in all that,” he said. “It was a pleasure to serve with him. I learned a lot from him, and I’m still learning.”