It didn’t take long for Lola Jean Miller to get teary-eyed as she walked into London’s U.S. Courthouse Friday. Clad in all manner of red, white and blue, there stood 40 of her friends and family to celebrate her becoming an American citizen.

Lola and 32 other people were invited to the courthouse for its annual naturalization ceremony, which officially made them full-fledged Americans.

Lola was born in Windsor, Ontario. At the age of 13, her father moved her and her six sisters to Atlanta, Ga.

“He wanted to live somewhere warmer,” she explained.

Five years after she arrived on U.S. soil, Lola met Raymond, to whom she has been married ever since. After living in Chicago for 30 years, the Millers decided to move to London to be closer to their daughter and six grandchildren.

It’s a move Lola’s glad she made.

“Oh, I love London,” she said. “I’m not ever moving. My next move is straight up.”

But all the while she’s been in the United States, Lola never applied for citizenship.

About a year and a half ago, Raymond broached the issue with his wife.

“I said you’ve got to pursue that again,” he said.

Lola agreed.

“It was just time,” she said. “And I wanted to vote.”

It was Raymond who hatched the surprise at the courthouse, surreptitiously sending invitations to friends from Corinth Baptist Church.

“My wife has been in the states for 48 years,” he said. “I thought if you’ve waited this long, she should have her friends around her.”

The citizenship process involved submitting applications, undergoing an interview and taking history and English tests, which Lola admitted was stressful.

“There were 200 practice questions on the constitution,” she said.

And there was Friday’s naturalization ceremony. In all, people from 16 countries likewise became citizens. They hailed from far and wide, including Nicaragua, Philippines, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Iran and China.

Suseela Kammila came from India.

Dressed in a pretty peach and gold sari, she proudly stood and stated her name and country of origin when Jose Pabon did the roll call.

“She’s happy about everything,” her daughter Vijaya, who attended the ceremony, confided.

Kammila came to the United States when her daughter married 10 years ago.

Following the roll call, U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves addressed the smiling crowd.

“Unlike those of us who were lucky enough to be born here, you have taken a different path to get here,” he said. “For many of you that has been a difficult road to take. I’m sure some of you have a feeling of emptiness inside you for having to renounce your allegiance to your homeland. Naturally, there will be some feelings of sadness. I believe over time those feelings will fade.”

Reeves encouraged the new citizens to fulfill their duty as U.S. citizens, including completing jury service and taking “the time to be part of the political process.”

Which is certainly something Lola intends on doing.

And as she walked down the courthouse steps with a red, white and blue scarf wrapped around her neck, she looked happy to be American.

“She’s just a well-rounded person,” friend Emma Spivey said. “She’ll make American citizens proud.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo. com.

Becoming a citizen

The Naturalization Ceremony is the final step to becoming an American citizen. To become naturalized, one must:

• Be 18 years old and be a lawful permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder)

• After being deemed a lawful permanent resident, live continuously in the United States for five years

• Be of good moral character

• Have the ability to read, write, speak and understand simple words in English

• Have knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government

• Support the principles of the U.S. Constitution and swear allegiance to the United States

• Undergo an interview

React to this story:


This Week's Circulars