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Arts & Culture

Morganton's 'Music Lady' Who Made Inmates Her Calling Dies At 92

Briana Duggan
Millicent Gordon directed members of Western Youth Instutition's Choir for thirty years.

A woman who treated hundreds of incarcerated young men like her own grandchildren passed away last week. Millie Gordon was a music and choir director at churches in Morganton. But it was at Morganton’s Western Youth Institute where she found her calling and earned the name “Music Lady.”

Gordon taught music for 30 years to North Carolina’s youngest prisoners. WFAE spoke with her in 2013, a year before the prison closed.   

“Some of them have done murder, some of them have done rape, just any crime you can think of, somebody there has done it," Gordon said at the time. "And the best way to handle them is to treat them all like grandchildren."

Her students respected her and her butterscotch candies didn’t hurt either.  

"When you get the butterscotch you have to say thank you, and you have to say it before you take two steps – she did not make this up, we made this up – you have to say it before you take two steps away from her or you do not get the candy. Because although there are a lot of disrespectful people in this facility, nobody disrespects Ms. Gordon,” said one of her students, Kasiem Anderson.

Gordon died last Wednesday at the age of 92.

Matt Jenkins a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety’s Juvenile Justice division says it’s hard to put a number on how many lives Gordon affected. He called her music program "soulful therapy for young men."