Civil Rights

Family, Friends Mourn SDSU's 1st Black Professor Who Fought for Social Justice

Friends and family are remembering a former San Diego State University political science professor as a fighter for justice and liberty -- for all people

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A loving, caring, brilliant man -- that’s how San Diego resident Elijah Miles' wife of 62 years, Francis Miles, remembers him. 

“He was an outstanding man," Francis Miles said. "He had a smile for everyone he met. Everyone liked him. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like him."

Elijah Miles met his loving wife at Prairie View A&M University, in his home state of Texas.

“I was attracted to him by his character and his brilliant mind,” Francis Miles said.

It was a character she defined as kind, hard-working, and honest.

After graduating from A&M, Elijah Miles served overseas in the Army. He then returned for his master's and doctorate degrees from Indiana University, which led him to a faculty position in the political science department at San Diego State.

And, immediately, he made a mark. 

“When he arrived at SDSU in 1966, he was the only Black professor in the university,” said Farid Abdel-Nour, SDSU Political Science Department chair.

Elijah Miles spent more than 30 years at the university. He’s remembered for classes that are still taught there today.

“He was very strong in social justice,” said his son, Christopher Miles. “One of the things he wanted to do at SDSU was to build a civil rights department.”

He was very strong in social justice.

Christopher Miles, son of late SDSU professor Elijah Miles

Elijah wrote a number of books on civil rights and, in his community, he led the San Diego chapters of the ACLU and Urban League. 

“This is somebody who embodied the idea of the teacher, scholar and community activist, active community member, someone who really shapes the community,” Abdel-Nour said.

At home, Elijah's family will also remember him as a devoted father and husband.

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