BY LINDA MILLER / NOVEMBER 2014
If Cumberland Township had a Hall of Fame, Sheriff Bernard V. Miller would certainly be an inductee. Affectionately known as “Bernie,” Miller served our township as Chief of Police for 14 years, later serving Adams County as sheriff for 28 years. Born on Feb. 16, 1918, in northern Cumberland Township, he spent his early years on a dairy farm at the corner of Table Rock and Miller Roads. Much of his adult life was spent at his home on the Taneytown Road, in the southern part of the township.
His love of the local community was evident throughout his 81 years of life. He was a member of the Saint Francis Xavier Church, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Adams County Volunteer Fireman’s Association, AmVets, Loyal Order of Moose, Fish and Game Association, and BPO Elks and served as Sergeant with the Pennsylvania National Guard. Miller had a knack for publicity and making friends. One of his deputies remarked that even the criminals liked him, although some wouldn’t admit it until they got out of jail! Miller was such an extremely popular Republican candidate that he had few opponents.
Throughout his life, Miller exhibited a strong work ethic. “I work every day if I have to – even Sunday,” he said. His political ad explained that he appreciated his position enough to have never taken a vacation or sick leave. He owned three of the vehicles used by the Sheriff’s department and used the four-wheel drive station wagon to transport hospital personnel to work during inclement weather. Sheriff Miller made 35 trips to Florida to bring back fugitives. And he understood the importance of being visible throughout the community. Ask any local. Always in uniform or blue blazer, he parked his distinctive cruiser near the door wherever he went so that everyone would know he was there. He even had a reserved parking spot right inside the gate at the South Mountain Fair.
At his retirement party in December of 1997, Sheriff Miller revealed that he always wanted to be a lawman: “I’ve done something I truly love, and if it weren’t for my age, I’d probably still be sheriff.” Although he never stood at polling places on Election Day to solicit votes, he was among a group of local residents who were honored for not missing a voting day in 50 years. Upon retirement he immediately purchased a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria LTD. A custom-made license plate on the front of the car said “Ex-Sheriff,” and his vanity plate on the back read “Ex-Lawman.”
After his death in February 1999, a Cumberland Township resident wrote a letter to the editor describing Bernie as “nothing short of a local legend.” He recalled as a teenager being issued warnings, with the condition that “you had 48 hours to tell your parents, because he was going to do that, as well. Bernie was the law, but he treated my friends and me with fairness and courtesy. As a result, we respected him.” What a fitting tribute!
Discover more about the history of law enforcement in Cumberland Township from current officials on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, at the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road, at 7 p.m. The meeting will also feature board elections and membership renewal, as well as special seasonal refreshments.
Linda Clark is a member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society board and author of several books on local civilians. For more information on the group visit www.cumberlandtownship.org.