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Ernest Mae Miller

Memorial for Ernest Mae Miller

Born in Austin, Texas on Feb. 7, 1927
Departed on Dec. 8, 2010 and resided in Austin, TX.
Visitation: Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Service: Monday, Dec. 13, 2010
11:00 am
Cemetery: Oakwood Cemetery
Please click on the links above for locations, times, maps, and directions.

Ernest Mae Miller was born February 7, 1927 in Austin, Texas. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Otto and Lizzie Anderson Crafton.

At an early age, Ernest Mae accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at Ebenezer Baptist Church, under the pastorate of Rev. Jerome C. Lott. Ernest Mae's maternal great grandmothers, Mrs. Margaret Pollard and Mrs. Henrietta Willis and her maternal 2nd great-grandmother Martha Eggeleston were three of the eighteen founding members of the church. In 1885, Mrs. Henrietta Willis, who was also the mother of Laurine C. Anderson, a well known and respected educator in Texas, named the church, Ebenezer, meaning "Stone of Help"; a philosophy which Ernest Mae's family exemplified through their unselfish deeds in the community. While attending church as a teenager, she played piano for the Sunday school.

Ernest Mae had a love for music even as a young child. As a little girl her grandmother would wind up the old victrola and let Ernest Mae play the records. Ernest Mae would get a stool and just listen for hours, sometimes falling asleep by the victrola. As a teenager, she and her best friend Damita Jo DeBlanc would sneak out of the house to the Paradise Club and listen to Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Ernest Mae said, "One time we got caught by my mother and was switched all the way home."

Ernest Mae attended the Austin Independent Schools. After graduating from the old L.C. Anderson High School, named for her beloved grandfather, she attended Prairie View State College of which her grandfather served as the third president and his brother Ernest for which she was named, served as the second president. While at Prairie View, she joined the Prairie View State College Co-Ed all girl orchestra playing the baritone saxophone. The orchestra traveled during World War II performing at various military bases along the east coast.

While on tour in New York at the Apollo Theater, she met her first husband, James (Spizzy) Canfield. To this union one son, Kenneth Laurine was born. After her divorce, Ernest Mae returned to Austin to stay.
Ernest Mae was a wealth of information about the history of Austin, predominately focusing on east Austin. She was an excellent resource of historical facts and pictures if needed for publications, museums, exhibits, etc. She was determined to pass on family and east Austin's history to her sons and daughters-in-law so that they might pass them on to their children.

In 1948, Ernest Mae met and married Hammitt Miller of Rockdale, TX. To this union, five sons were born, Duane, Emmitt (Juicy), Terrance (Paul), Phillip (Duff), and Gordon.

Affectionately known as "Ernie Mae", one of Austin's favorite musician, she has performed in the most prestigious hotels in Austin, such as The Driskill Hotel, the Commodore Perry, the Hyatt Regency and the Radisson to name a few. She also performed at dinner lounges debuting at the New Orleans where she recorded two albums; then she went on to play at Steak Island, Don's Depot and The Cedars.
A columnist for the Austin American-Statesman once wrote, "Ernest Mae was the woman who knows more about a song than all the mockingbirds which sing in the beautiful, musical heart of Texas where her voice and piano first took wing. She can soar to the hilltops when her song is happy and she can alight in a river bottom of almost humid tears when the composer is sad and blue. Wherever she goes, she takes her listeners along in an empathy encompassing every note from the lilting falsetto to her husky sobs. Somehow, everyone hypnotically is hers. It is difficult to solve the magic with which Ernie Mae captivates her audience. Like the mockingbird, her secret lies in her ability to make one recollect the best of so many tuneful years and to collect the reminiscences, into an infinite repertoire. She is as timeless as the mockingbirds of Texas. If you are in your eighties or twenties, tunes can be adored from some lost decade – especially if Ernie Mae sings them."

Ernest Mae was preceded in death by her parents; husband of 28 years, Hammitt Miller; son Emmitt and her eldest beloved sister Marjorie Crafton.
Ernest Mae is survived by her five sons, Kenneth (Greta) Canfield, Dallas, TX; Duane (Lucy) Miller, Round Rock, TX; Terrance Paul Miller, Austin, TX; Phillip (Galaxia) Miller, Round Rock, TX; and Gordon Miller, US Navy, Goose Creek, S.C.; nine grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, numerous step grandchildren; her beloved sister, Fannie C. Brooks of Orangeburg, S.C.; her loyal companion of 25 years, Clem B. Lewis; one cousin Josephine Ramirez of Houston, TX and a host of other relatives and close friends.

Ernest Mae will be deeply missed, however; her spirit and music will remain in the hearts of those that knew and loved her.

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