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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Nate Miles – Community Leader, Philanthropist And Mentor

Nate Miles
Photo/Aaron Allen

By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium

Every once in a while leadership comes along that defies the odds. Nate Miles is someone who exemplifies that type of leadership. Born in Pasco, Washington in 1959, his parents migrated from the south for a better way of life and Miles under the guidance of a loving family and a supportive community grew up to become one of the Pacific Northwest most influential leaders.

According to Miles, “many African American families came up from the south and settled in the area, where they came to work for the Hartford Nuclear reservation.”

“My dad was from Texas and my mother was from Louisiana so as a result Pasco was where they landed,” said Miles. “My dad got jobs where he could and my mom was a domestic worker and part time bus driver.”

Miles, a Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for a large pharmaceutical company, was emotional as he began to describe the pivotal and significant moments in his life that helped shape the man he would become.

For Miles it wasn’t until a teacher suggested he join DECA, a high school leadership program that he began to see and understand the importance of education and ultimately two episodes of generosity that would change his trajectory.

When Miles was a senior at Pasco High School, where he graduated in 1977, his mother went into one of her two jobs, as a domestic worker and in his mother’s private moments at work she prayed for God’s help in getting her son into college. This was after hearing her son express interest in continuing his education in which she knew nothing about, how to get him into college, how to pay for college, she had no idea.

But, the one thing she did know was the power of prayer, God was going to make it happen and she got on her knees and prayed. Her boss overheard the heartfelt prayers Mrs. Miles laid before her faith and decided to help. The woman called Miles’ mother to come over along with Nate to discuss something.

Miles not knowing what was going on felt the kind of unease a child feels when they think they’re in trouble, but as the meeting took place his mother’s faith and persistence in prayer paid off as the woman announced she and her husband were going to pay for Miles’ college tuition and lent his family the money.

That is when Miles knew that no matter what or who he became giving back was going to be the foundation of his life’s work.

“I was one of those kids that thanked God,” says Miles. “One of those kids where the church took up a little collection for me, gave me a little scholarship, everybody cooked a little something, I’ll never forget and I thanked those people when they saw me off.”

Being the first generation in his family to go to college, Miles carried the hopes, prayers and dreams of his family and his community, whether it was the Porters, The Black Elks or the NAACP who also provided scholarships, it was important that he carry this notion of giving with him.

Miles says that when people ask him how he became successful or how did he make it, he tells them that it’s because of the love his community showed him.

Another example of giving that left an indelible mark on Miles was during his high school experience he was in an oratorical contest and came in second place to a younger female student, he was a senior and what happened next is the sort of compassion felt by a chosen few.

Miles explains, “As a senior I was in an oratorical contest and I came in second place. The lady who was the mother of the winner and headed the contest took her daughter aside who was I believe a junior or sophomore and asked if she would give the winning scholarship to me because I needed more than she did and that she would have other opportunities to win and the young girl gave me the scholarship.”

Every day, there’s not a day that goes by that I am not thankful but that’s how my community did it,” says Miles.

Miles began his collegiate career at Columbia Basin College in Eastern Washington majoring in communications and earned an associate in general studies. In 1980, he transferred to the University of Washington where he completed a degree in communications in 1982. Later Miles would be honored in the University’s Communications Department’s Hall of Fame class of 2016.

Community service is something that Miles is deeply rooted in. Upon graduating from the University of Washington, Miles settled into life, he joined Mt Zion Baptist church solidify is spiritual upbringing where he established his relationship with Seattle’s iconic civil and human rights activist the late Reverend Dr. Samuel McKinney and began learning what civil activism was really about.

Miles career path began at the Seattle Medium Newspaper, Seattle’s largest African American newspaper, in sales cultivating his career in the sales of ideas.

From there Miles went on to work at KOMO broadcasting in production. After gaining both sales and production experience, Miles through a training program moved to KIRO and began working at KIRO again in sales and production

During his tenure at KIRO, he discovered he was rather opinionated and it was suggested by a co-worker that he should consider politics.

With this new aspiration Miles headed to Olympia, Washington and dove into politics and legislation working for Senator George Flemming as his Chief Legislative Aide. When Flemming decided to run for the gubernatorial seat, the idea of Miles running for the senate seat was brought to his attention.

“It was suggested that I run for the empty senate seat, but there are the kings and then there are the king makers and I liked being the king maker,” said Miles.

Miles established himself within the community as a leader and a very effective fundraiser. One of the major lessons he learned through his career was the ability to not just sale a product, but to be able to sell an idea, and fundraising and community service was about the selling of ideas.

Miles became involved in such organizations as the Urban League and the NAACP where he became a major player in fundraising and later became a board member for each organization as well served on boards of other organization such as National Action Network Corporation Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the University of Washington Foundation, Puget Sound Regional Council and a plethora of others.

To Miles a very important aspect of giving was mentorship. He remembers Rev. McKinney’s advice of mentorship, never forgetting to give back to the community and Miles made it a point to mentor and help young people grow and succeed throughout his career.

According to Darrell Powell, COO of United Way King County, “My career would not have happened if it weren’t for Nate Miles.

“I went from a career in for-profit to a career in non-profit and Nate was instrumental in that happening,” says Powell. “He was instrumental in the lives of many people and because of his mentorship I am very appreciative.”

Community service is about the energy and the work one puts in to better your community and Miles because of his upbringing, his blessings and the opportunities that were bestowed upon him never forgot that.

For over thirty-five years, Miles has left an indelible footprint within his community as a leader, philanthropist and mentor. Miles has raised millions of dollars as both a community leader and a lobbyist to help better the communities within the Pacific Northwest, particularly the Black community.

The former Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and former King County Executive Ron Sims states, “I don’t know where he gets his energy but he spreads it to everyone, he loves doing for others.

“Very few people possess the energy and compassion it takes for community services but Nate Miles delivers,” said Sims. “You can bet if Nate Miles is on your side you will win.”

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