This was posted Wednesday, March 29, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Former 11Alive reporter and Georgia Sen. Ollisteen “Steen” Miles has passed away from lung cancer, Channel 2 Action News first reported.
She was 70.
Miles worked at the NBC affiliate WXIA-TV from 1984 to 1999 in various capacities in front of the camera and behind the camera. She was also a MARTA spokesman and a Georgia state senator from 2005 to 2007 representing DeKalb County.
DeKalb County commissioner Larry Johnson, whose mother just passed from lung cancer recently as well, said he loved how she would “go to bat for the little person. She listened and acted as a legislator. As her constituent, I felt she cared and believed in us. I am saddened and hurt.”
Curt Thompson, a Democratic state senator representing parts of Gwinnett County, recalled her being “quick witted in floor debates even for a new state senator. She was hard working, always attended caucus meetings and I remember she had a very good laugh. I think she also got frustrated with the level of partisanship and difficulty passing or defeating bills in the minority party. I think that’s probably why she left office.”
Several of her former 11Alive colleagues gave heartfelt tributes on social media Wednesday.
“If you’ve worked in media or politics in Atlanta,” wrote 11Alive reporter Valerie Hoff DeCarlo on her Facebook page, “you probably knew Steen Miles. She was so kind to me when I was a beginner in Atlanta TV news, and I admired her being a risk taker and leaving TV to run for public office.”
DeCarlo said Miles battled cancer “with humor, optimism and determination… Steen’s death is a shock and a loss.” On Miles’ Facebook page, she wrote “cancer picked the wrong chick.”
Keith Whitney, who worked with her at 11Alive and is now at CBS46, called her a “bulldog” in the best sense of the word. “She was as tough as anyone you’d ever meet in the business. She was very outspoken. When other people might shy away from an uncomfortable issue, she’d speak up. She never held her tongue. Even if you didn’t like her, you respected her. She was one of those people who put everything into whatever assignment she was given. She was unforgettable.”
Evelyn Mims, who was the long-time community affairs specialist and producer at 11Alive, said Miles was the “Maxine Waters of the newsroom. She was a powerhouse. She was a strong woman period. Family and spiritually oriented. Her parents were ministers.”
Miles attended both of 11Alive anchor Brenda Wood’s going away parties when she retired last month. While Wood knew Miles’ cancer had returned, Miles expressed no fear to her. “She had on her beautiful smile and said, ‘I’ve got my faith. That’s what I’m going on!’ ” Wood told me late Wednesday by phone.
The day before Miles passed, Wood had penned a thank you note to Miles in appreciation for her support over the years but had no idea how close Miles was to moving on. “I’m still rattled,” Wood said.
Her daughter Kellie Walker said she was former president of Jack and Jill of America, a non-profit dedicated to building African-American leaders and she was active as a minister at Greenforest Community Baptist Church in Decatur.
“She touched so many lives and was present with so many people in a meaningful way,” Walker said. “She wanted to impact people and touch people and help people.”
The biggest lesson Miles taught her daughters, Walker said, was “to love God, love my family, love my community and love myself.”
According to a biography on TheHistoryMakers.com, Miles grew up in South Bend, Ind. and worked in radio in Cincinnati and Chicago before coming to Atlanta in 1980 where she worked at United Press International as an editor before moving to 11Alive in 1984.
Kellie recalled while growing up, her mom hosted a “Coffee Talk” TV show in South Bend and a radio show as “Steen King, the Soul Queen.” (Her married name at the time was King.)
In 2000 and 2008, she ran for DeKalb County CEO but didn’t win. In 2006, she also tried to become Lieutenant Governor, coming in third during the Democratic primary. In 2014, she ran for U.S. Senate as a Democrat but lost to Michelle Nunn in the primary.
Miles resided in Decatur and is survived by two daughters, Kellie and Heather and two grandchildren, William and Kellea.