West Tennessee Community Mourns Loss, Celebrates Life Of ‘Captain Spectrum’ Creator
Few people get the opportunity to see their legacy come to fruition during their lifetime, but 19-year-old Chris Miller of Stewart County, Tennessee did. The well-known autism advocate and creator of the anti-bullying character, Captain Spectrum passed on Feb. 12 after sustaining a head injury in a falling accident.
Miller began his advocacy work for the autism community when he was only 12 years old. After recovering from a second suicide attempt brought on by bullying from peers, Miller created his own superhero, Captain Spectrum, to help others better understand him and others like him.
Miller’s mother, Crystal Miller, said he passed due to a head injury sustained in an accident at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in Paris, Tennessee where he attended classes. As Miller was placing trash into a campus dumpster, the vehicle he was standing on pulled away, causing a skull fracture. TCAT is not making comments at this time due to a current investigation of the incident.
Crystal said during his life, her son was “pure love,” and did not let his struggles define him.
“He fought hard to overcome his adversities he had with autism,” Crystal said. “He didn't want it to define him. He was his true self.”
Haley Rowlett became friends with Miller during high school. She said to know Miller was to love him.
“Everybody that met him had a special place in their heart for him,” Rowlett said. “He always wanted to put everybody before him. He wanted to make sure everybody else was happy before him. He was amazing. A bunch of people knew him, and the people that knew him, loved him to death.”
Rowlett said a defining characteristic of Miller was his ability to overcome trials and remain selfless during his own struggles.
“Some people in class would make fun of him because of his autism. He didn't pay much attention to it,” Rowlett said. “He wanted to put everybody before him. Even the ones that bullied him. He made sure everybody had a smile on their face.”
Miller’s positive presence was not limited to just his local area. He was the creator of Captain Spectrum, a superhero with a facebook following of 2,475. This online community created by Miller has brought together individuals with autism, their families, friends, and supporters from all over the globe.
Koria Staggs is a member of the Captain Spectrum community on facebook. She said she had not heard of Captain Spectrum until after Miller’s accident at TCAT. She said she spent hours looking through the superhero’s page and relating to her own son’s journey through Miller’s.
“When Chris's story came out about his accident, I set my son Mason down and said, ‘Bubba, I want you to read this young man's statement,’” Staggs said. “Then he said to me, ‘Mom, he sounds so much like me. I would have loved to have met him.’ Because my son loves superheroes, loves stuff like that. I said, ‘Mason so tell me, how do you relate here?’ He said, ‘I relate in every way with him.’”
Staggs said she would have given anything to meet Miller. She said she believes he had a wealth of knowledge to share to help parents and friends better understand their loved ones with autism.
“His concept of Captain Spectrum is to help people with autism understand you do not let the bullies win, and give them that hope that, you know, you've got super abilities, you've got this,” Staggs said. “I would have given anything to have met Chris and just been able to sit down and talk with him. Because, I think he could have given me knowledge that could have helped my son. Help me to understand my son better.”
An upcoming walk to raise awareness and understanding for autism is being held in Staggs’ town of Hohenwald, Tennessee. She said she is on a mission to carry on Miller’s work with Captain Spectrum and plans to incorporate Captain Spectrum into the event.
“I reached out to his mom and said, ‘I would love to talk to you. I'd love to share stories. I would love to know how to keep Chris's superpowers alive. How can we continue to live Chris's dreams for him,’” Staggs said. “Hohenwald, Tennessee has our first autism walk probably in May. I really want to bring Captain Spectrum to this. Children relate to superheroes. I want them to know, just because the world sees them different, that doesn't mean a bad different.”
Services honoring Miller’s life were held Saturday, Feb. 27th at Neal-Tarpley-Parchman Funeral Home in Clarksville, Tennessee.