Town leaders, first responders and community members gathered Thursday inside Council Chambers to honor one of its own — one of the state’s first black troopers — by celebrating the renaming of a local roadway after him.
“First of all, I’d like to thank God,” Tillman Millhouse Jr. told a packed crowd.
He later stretched out his arms to hold the large, green “Millhouse Drive” road sign drivers will soon spot when traveling between Maple Street and Holiday Drive in Summerville.
“I want you to think about Tillman every time you go down that road,” Mayor Wiley Johnson said.
Johnson described Tillman as “one of Summerville’s favorite sons” and “a rock in the community” who’s “been a real shining light.”
Recognizing February as Black History Month, Councilman Aaron Brown praised Tillman’s efforts and the way he paved the way for other minorities in South Carolina.
“I thank God for Tillman Millhouse,” he said. “We all (on council) thought this was fitting to name this (road) after this great man.”
Born in Flowertown in 1941, Millhouse is considered the lower part of the state’s first black trooper, a job he told friends and family he chose as a child.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was 6-years-old,” Millhouse said. “And I gave it my best.”
The historic local icon started his law enforcement career in 1968, graduating from the South Carolina Highway Patrol Academy three years later. Millhouse was the only black trooper to be named a “Special Deputy U.S. Marshal”—only 50 others in the state have been similarly appointed—and was the first black man appointed to a newly-formed investigative unit in 1988, according to a resolution county staff read during the ceremony. As a part of the unique unit, Millhouse worked as a protection officer for heads of state and other visiting officials.
Millhouse also boasts multiple accolades from the FBI, Congress and S.C. General Assembly and is known as the first S.C. Attorney General Father of the Year and Dorchester County Trooper of the Year, the resolution states. He also remains the Highway Patrol’s “oldest living person of color with the most seniority.”
According to former trooper and colleague Jim Woods, a current captain with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, stories of Tillman filled his household as a child.
“I knew Tillman before I ever met him,” Woods said.
The sheriff’s official explained that his father, a trooper, had worked alongside Tillman; and when Woods moved to Summerville to fill a local trooper post, his father insisted he lookup his acclaimed friend.
“My father thought the sun rose and set with (Tillman),” Woods said.
But it’s Tillman’s contributions to community and family that continue to keep him involved post retirement and best comprise his legacy, according to Woods.
“When I think of Tillman Millhouse, when I think of his legacy—his legacy is right here—his family. All the Millhouse family are well-known in this community,” Woods said. “He was a great trooper. He was a hardworking trooper. But he was an A-No. 1 father and grandfather—and still is; and he has always led by example.”
Millhouse’s volunteer service roles over the years include work with Meals on Wheels, the American Red Cross, New Ashley Baptist Church in Summerville and Troop 150 Explorer Post, which he helped found.
“It’s (been) a pleasure...to serve the people of Summerville, Dorchester County, state of South Carolina,” he said.
Millhouse still remains active with each of the emergency response teams in Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
“He’s always looking out for his neighbors,” Brown said. “He has integrity. …He’s always been an honorable man.”
The District 1 councilman reflected on how Millhouse was even the first to “roll up his sleeves,” during a recent flood event in the district, in an effort to help “be part of the solution.”
According to Millhouse’s biographical information, he’s also commissioned by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and is a graduate of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, Midlands and Trident Technical colleges, the Department of Defense and other law enforcement-related courses. He is a member of the S.C. Troopers Association, National Black Troopers Coalition, Fraternal Order of Police, S.C. Law Enforcement Association, American Association of State Troopers, and Silver Bears.
Tillman and his late wife Emily Myers were married 53 years. The couple have two daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren.