For Madame Lucille Banks Robinson Miller, inspiration comes in the middle of the night. "God gives me all of my thoughts at night," declared Miller, the popular hostess on Washington's "inspirational" AM music station, WYCB.
And so it happened that the 70-year-old Miller decided to battle drugs and crime around 7th & T streets NW, having driven past the drug-riddled corner earlier in the day. Miller and 175 listeners marched through the Northwest drug corridor in July, singing and praying for the sinners' salvation. That was several weeks before District police began their latest crackdown on drug trafficking.
Another night, after she heard that a local girls' home needed graduation outfits for five of its students, Miller recalled, "something told me to bring those girls down to the station."
The next day she told listeners: "I'm not begging cause I've got God to help me. But I know there are enough Love Club members to get five dresses, five pairs of stockings and five pairs of shoes." Enough donations were made to buy each girl three outfits.
And it was a Saturday night 18 months ago, Miller said, when she awakened with her most fruitful idea.
"I'm organizing the Love Club," she announced that Sunday on her morning program. "There are no dues and no rules. The only requirement is that you love God and your brother."
"The lines lit up," said Miller. She estimates that 10,000 radio listeners have sent in application forms to join the radio club whose goal is helping the needy.
"You can't imagine the hundreds of calls I get from persons who are depressed, or lonely or hungry," said Miller. "They have confidence in me because they know I'm for real."
Miller was born and raised in Washington and, in her life time, she has touched the lives of politicians, ministers, musicians, school administrators, community leaders and youth.
Many know her from her 28 years on Washington airwaves. She was the second female religious broadcaster in Washington when she began her career on WUST. She later became a hostess on WOL before going to WYCB in 1978. She is now on the air Saturday and Sunday inspiring her listeners with traditional gospel music. Her trademark is a soft, slow drawl and perfect pronunciation.
A tall, stately women who often drapes herself in chiffon and oversized hats, Miller is one of the most visible people among the Washington church-going and religious music-loving community. She taught music and performed with local gospel groups in Washington churches for 40 years. She gained a reputation as Washington's mistress of ceremony, a weekend hostess for church programs, community fundraisers, religious concerts and political prayer breakfasts.
She gave the invocation at Effi Barry's spring luncheon for Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. She broadcast the dedication services for Bible Way's $3 million complex earlier this month. On Oct. 3 she'll host a day-long concert fundraiser for the United Planning Organization at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium.
This Saturday, an expected 200 people will pay $15 a ticket to honor the woman affectionately called Madame Miller at the Shaw Community Center's fundraising prayer breakfast at the RFK Stadium clubhouse.
Because of her many fundraising efforts and appearances, Miller has worked closely, at one time or another, with almost every black minister in the city.
"Mrs. Miller has the ability to pull people together and inspire a sense of unity in them," said City Councilman Jerry Moore, pastor of the 19th Street Baptist Church (NW).
Two years ago, Miller was named WTCB's community relations director and in February, the station sponsored a birthday gala for her at the 19th Street Baptist Church. Guests included Moore and Del. Walter Fauntroy. According to Andrew Rowe, who directs the D.C. Choral Ensemble, "It was an extravaganza. Everybody who was anybody was there."
Miller's small Northwest apartment bears the proof of appreciation. Plaques, awards, certificates and photos of Miller with everyone from Mayor Marion Barry to Nancy Reagan adorn the walls, book cases, and furniture. Barry gave her the key to the city in August.
Miller grew up in Northwest Washington and says she married young against her mother's wishes. Her first marriage ended shortly after it began and she worked as a domestic to support herself before the birth of a son. She remarried four times over the years and has two other sons.
During the Depression, she put herself through Howard University's school of music.
"I went to school morning and night, walked in the rain and cold . . . until I finished school. That's why I don't have any sympathy for the young people today."
However, the piano and voice lessons she gave Washington youth taught more than the scales. "Ask any of my students what they learned," she said without modesty.
Rowe, a recording artist and a popular gospel performer, was 5 years old when Miller gave him his first piano lesson. "She also taught morals, discipline, charm and etiquette," Rowe said.
"If someone would come into her class and just sit down, she would make them go back out. They would have to come back in and say, 'Good afternoon, Mrs. Miller and class,'" recalled Shirley Ables of the Joy Gospel Singers, whose three children were taught by Miller. "They couldn't just slump down either. They had to sit with shoulders back."
Miller retired from teaching last year as her public appearances and WYCB responsibilities made life too hectic, she said. But former students and their parents lament the decision.
"If Mrs. Miller would go back to teaching today and she charged $100," said Ables, who works at a Southeast preschool, "I would borrow that and put my daughter back in."