Milton S Heath Jr. of Chapel Hill died Sunday, Oct 20, 2019. He was 91.
Milton was born in Durham NC on March 16, 1928, and grew up in Chapel Hill, a devoted and lifelong Tar Heel fan. He was the son of Clara Cole Heath and Milton S. Heath Sr., a professor of economics at UNC.
Milton was an excellent student, earning academic scholarships from Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He then completed his law degree at Columbia University in New York City.
While in New York, Milton met Eleanor deGrange, whom he would marry. Milton and Eleanor had three children: Margaret, Charlie and Frank, all of whom will miss him dearly.
Work stints followed in the New York governor's office in Albany, and with the TVA in Knoxville, TN.
Then in 1957 Milton moved his family back to Chapel Hill, where he took a job at UNC's Institute of Government (now the School of Government) — a body founded in 1931 to provide educational, advisory, and research services for state and local governments.
Milton had a deep interest in the natural environment, and protecting the North Carolina environment via legislation became the major focus of his professional career.
Milton was a skilled consensus-builder whose efforts to find common ground in a widely diverse legislative body paid off; as a result, many of his most important bills became laws.
Through his work Milton drafted or spearheaded support for many of North Carolina's bedrock environmental legislations. Among the most significant of these were the Water Use Act of 1967, the Environmental Policy Act of 1971, the Coastal Area Management Act of 1974, and the Mountain Ridge Protection Act (1983).
Milton also loved to teach, and he offered popular environmental law courses at UNC and at Duke University for many years.
His work as a water resource expert and advisor also carried him to such distant and memorable locations as Aftrica, Australia, Guatemala and England, and to all of North Carolina's 100 counties.
Milton's wide contributions to state governance were formally recognized upon his retirement from the Institute in 2008, when he received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- the highest civilian honor awarded by the state of NC.
MIlton was a lifelong tennis player and enthusiast - a self-styled "human backboard" who could run down just about any shot. He played well into his 60s.
He also took up the indoor racquet-sport of squash while at Exeter, and quickly became a tough opponent.
As his children were growing up, Milton guided long hikes along Chapel Hill's Bolin Creek and through the wild expanse of the adjacent "Tenney Meadow", with stops for botany and biology lessons and snacks of wild strawberries and ginger snaps.
Other family highlights included annual driving trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway and to Holden's Beach NC, always with a stop at Heath's Tastee Freeze in Dunn on the way.
Milton loved classical music and sang in school and church choirs for most of his life. One of his favorite achievements was being selected as manager of the Harvard Glee Club. Around home he was an avid gardener, who never could grow or display too many flowers.
Prior to the passing of his beloved wife Betty Sanders' in 2012, Milton and Betty loved to travel. They regularly visited Key West, Santa Fe, NM, Washington DC, and Pine Knoll Shores, NC; and took several scenic train trips across Canada.
Milton was also preceded in death by his sister Elizabeth Danziger; and by his stepmother Lillian Mae Heath.
Milton is survived by children Margaret Heath and Frank Heath (both of Chapel Hill), and Charlie Heath, along with Charlie's wife Zevey Steinitz, son Eli Heath and daughter Liana Heath of Haydenville, MA; by his brother Robert Heath of Auburn, AL, nephews Bobby Heath of Atlanta and Edward Heath of Pittsburgh; by nieces Elizabeth Ann Danziger Chorvat of Chicago and Clara Danziger Neyhart of Chapel Hill, and great nephew Christopher Cole Neyhart and great niece Emily Clara Turner; and also by step-children David Hanson, Julie Hanson and Mike Hanson from Milton's second marriage.
A memorial service will be held at The Chapel Hill University Presbyterian Church, 11 AM on Jan. 4. Milton's family requests that donations can be made to the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Walker's Funeral Home of Chapel Hill is honored to serve the Heath family.