Blast from the past: Shelby Miller

Published 1:24 am Thursday, September 12, 2019

It takes a special person to want to be a referee, umpire, or a basketball official. 
It’s something you have to love – no one can make you do it. You have to have a big heart, a sense of being able not to hear, and your eyesight has to be 20/20 and have vision in the back of your head.   
A good day at the ball field is making it to your car before the rowdy fans catch up to you.  It’s never paid enough for the abuse you take, the things people say about you, and the things that they say about your family and friends. 
With all that being said, one man has withstood criticism for nearly 55-years. 
I first remember this man officiating a game in which my team was ahead nearly 50 points in the first round of the Regional Tournament. The fourth quarter had just started when the referee hit my coach with three technical’s and threw him out of the game. 
Then he was going to make us forfeit if Coach White didn’t leave the gym. He did and I have never forgotten the final score, 76-19. I don’t know what my coach said but I sure was glad he left the gym – we went on to win the 1973 Regional Championship.
He graduated in 1963 from Happy Valley High School playing several sports and never lost the love for the game. Shelby Miller just began his 54th year as a football official and has no plans of retiring. 
Miller has officiated at every level of sports in basketball, baseball and football. After umpiring some Little League baseball he spent 25-years on the court working basketball and two state tournaments, 15 Regionals, and 11-Sub-state games. 
He has worked in both the boys and girls state tournaments. He has also worked in four state football championship games and 42 consecutive years in state playoff games.
“When I started out in 1987, he was very supportive and I learned a lot from him as a young official. He was always fair and firm with the teams and coaches and I always looked up to him as a good decent man. I used to sit and observe him and the others just to learn – they were some of the best” said Greg Bradley.
Miller was also an Elizabethton City Councilman for six years of which two he was the Mayor Pro-Tem. This was Miller’s side job as he spent 34-years with Inland Container as a Quality Manager. 
Miller has done it all. 
He was an Eagle Scout, past President of the Elizabethton Lions Club, a Shriner, past member of the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Gideon’s International. He was a key part in getting the annual Christmas Lions Club basketball tournament started that lasted for many years.
“Shelby is one the very most respected officials we have in Region One. Any referee blessed with him on a crew knows he’s getting the best head linesman he could ever ask for” said Dennis Brooks, TSSAA Referee.
Miller is nearing fifty years being married to Creola and has two daughters, Amy and Wendy, with one granddaughter.  
Former coach Rik Anderson said, “ I did ask him when we first got to know each other when he thought he would get out. He said when he got one right and 54 years later he’s still in it. Guess he’s got another 10 years or so left to go.”
Cyclone great Dick Ryan said, “Shelby Miller was a good athlete that played baseball, basketball and ran track for a really good group of teams at Happy Valley. His junior and senior year, those were two years Happy Valley was loaded in basketball with Tommy Crumley, Donnie Peters, Danny Webster, Wendell Davis, Larry Campbell, Floyd Elliot, and many others.
“We played hard against each other but also enjoyed knowing the other team members. Baseball gave us a lot of opportunity and Shelby was a great competitor and he still is. He likes to win.” 
Shelby was selected as TSSAA A.F. Bridges Athletic District 1 Official of the year in 2003-2004. He was inducted into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. 
In 2017 he was presented the James Cradic Memorial Award and installed into the National Football Foundation Mountain Empire Chapter Hall of Fame.
Supervisor and TSSAA Hall of Famer Ralph Stout once said, “Shelby is the most outstanding head linesman, he was on my crew and did a great job.”

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