Miller becomes state’s first African American circuit clerk

Published 9:39 am Friday, February 23, 2018

Long-time deputy clerk Martha Miller officially became Clark County’s new circuit clerk earlier this month, but Thursday she took the oath of office in front of a packed circuit court room.

Well-wishers including most of the sitting judges filled every seat and lined the walls to witness the swearing in of Kentucky’s first African-American circuit clerk.

Miller, a 40-year veteran of the clerk’s office, was appointed following the retirement of Paula Joslin earlier this month.

Email newsletter signup

“After Paula’s retirement, it fell on me to appoint someone,” Chief Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue said. “It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve had to make. I just had to look at Martha.”

“I can’t not thank Paula,” Miller said. I thank you for this opportunity to continue to serve the people of Clark County. I thank God for the privilege.”

The judges praised Miller’s service, consistency, support and ability to get things done.

“The first day I took the bench, it was a little overwhelming,” Clark District Judge Earl-Ray Neal said. “As she has every day of my career, Martha was at my side and could tell I was scared to death. The looked at me and said, ‘You’ve got this.’ Madame clerk, you’ve got this.”

Miller was hired as a deputy clerk in 1977 as the district court program was established. Miller stayed for the next four decades, through the addition of computers, through the growth of the court system, through one move and the flooding of her office just last week.

Neal said when Miller told him of the flood last week, he suggested closing court for the day. Miller wouldn’t hear of it, he said. The scheduled district court docket went off as scheduled and deputy clerks were on hand to file documents if needed.

Clark District Judge Brandy Oliver Brown said Miller has become more than a co-worker through the decades, but a friend as well.

“When you work with someone over 25 years, that’s what it becomes,” Brown said.

“She has always been shy to take the spotlight. She’s the person doing all the work. She’s behind the scenes making things get done.”

Charla Hylton, one of Miller’s deputy clerks, said after researching and conferring with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky state archives, no records have been found of other African American circuit clerks in the state’s history.

“We are so very pleased to have Martha,” Neal said. “She brings a sense of calm and a sense of composure.”

That composure and calm was critical to others as well.

“There were plenty of times I was on the bench with my hair on fire” and going crazy, Brown said. “Martha was there saying, ‘It’l be OK. We’ll handle it.’”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

email author More by Fred