A moving and memorable Memorial Day ceremony was held May 31 at Violet Hills Cemetery, 454 Hazel Mill Road to pay tribute to the 245 African American Veterans buried there.
To honor their memory, a plaque was presented to Quentin Miller, current owner and caretaker of Violet Hill Cemetery, by the Commander of American Legion Post 70, Asheville, NC. The plaque is inscribed, “Honoring African American Veterans who lie here for their service to our grateful Country. May you rest in peace and feel everlasting pride for your sacrifices! American Legion, Post 70, May 31, 2021.”
The event was attended by 50 veterans and dignitaries from the Asheville community, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder, the Honorable Judge Marvin Pope (now retired from the Superior Court of NC District 28, Buncombe County), and Dr. Angela Williams, Acting Director Charles George VA Medical Center.
The invocation was led by Pastor Spencer E. Hardaway of Rock Hill Baptist Church in the Shiloh community. Those attending agreed that coming together as a community to honor these veterans helps to bring back the ‘Memorial’ in Memorial Day in honor of Veterans.
Fred Baker, a service-disabled veteran, and his wife Jackie presented a wreath from NC Brookhaven Behavioral Health to honor the veterans present and those interred at Violet Hills Cemetery. Mr. Baker is CEO and owner of NC Brookhaven Behavioral Health, which provides Mental Health services to the WNC community.
Violet Hills Cemetery has long been of significance to the African American community. It was founded in 1932 by Dr. L.O. Miller, a prominent Black physician of the era. At that time, Asheville’s cemeteries were segregated, with only one or two decent places for Black citizens to be buried. Dr. Miller created the cemetery as a final resting place for people of all races.
At Violet Hills Cemetery, many prominent members of Asheville’s African American community are buried under decades-old hemlocks, elms, maples, and oaks. The cemetery’s seven sections cover more than 10 acres and still offer burial sites for anyone wishing to rest on its shady slopes. Quentin Miller, grandson of Dr. L. O. Miller, presides over the care and management of those buried there.