Zell Miller, who served as Georgia’s Governor and as a U.S. Senator, died today. His family reports that he died peacefully surrounded by family. Miller was 86 years old and had been diagnosed and treated for Parkinson’s disease.
Miller, who was a lifetime democrat, served as Governor from 1991 to 1999. Throughout his political career he was known for being blunt about the issues and earned the nickname and catchphrase, “Give ‘Em Hell, Zell.” Prior to being governor in the 90s, Miller served as Lieutenant Gov. for 16 years from 1975 to 1991. He also served in the state senate.
When Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell died in office, then governor Roy Barnes appointed Miller to his senate post.
But Miller’s political views didn’t always fall along party lines. During his time in the senate, he was known for his frequent disagreements with his own party. Despite being a lifelong democrat, Miller supported George W. Bush in his 2004 bid for re-election and gave a speech at the Republican Convention that year. Idealogical differences aside, Miller remained a democrat and was once quoted as saying he would remain a democrat until the day he died.
Miller is most-known for the creation of the HOPE scholarship, which to date has paid for 1.8 million Georgia students to go to college.
Despite his statewide and national fame and accomplishments, Miller’s heart always remained with in his native home of Young Harris, where Miller served as mayor for two years.
At a news conference this afternoon, Miller’s grandson Bryan Miller said, “This is a man who met with presidents — he met with kings — but he never forgot where he came from, and that was Young Harris, Georgia.”
Georgia elected officials and politicians were quick to share their condolences on social media.
It is with deep sadness to hear of the passing of my dear friend & partner Zell Miller. His contributions to GA are legendary in so many ways, especially as the author of GA's Hope Scholarship Program. May we all be inspired to continue his deeply impactful legacy of service.” pic.twitter.com/K13sZT9HLk
— David Scott (@repdavidscott) March 23, 2018
Rest in Peace Zell Miller. We likely won't see another like you in Georgia. https://t.co/dXD1lcHxXL
— Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) March 23, 2018
— Johnny Isakson (@SenatorIsakson) March 23, 2018
Zell Miller touched the lives of many as a teacher, Marine, public servant, and friend. Throughout his career, Zell was a strong advocate for the value of a public education and made it his mission to ensure Georgia students had the opportunity to pursue a college degree. (1/2) https://t.co/H5x7g93Z5p
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) March 23, 2018
Because of Zell’s work on the HOPE Scholarship, 1.8M Georgians have been able to attend a public college or university in GA who may not have been able to otherwise. His legacy will live on through them. We're praying for the Miller family during this very difficult time. (2/2)
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) March 23, 2018
Zell Miller, former Governor and U.S. Senator, served our state and nation with integrity. We thank him and his family for a lifetime of service. Our prayers are with you.
— Barry Loudermilk (@RepLoudermilk) March 23, 2018
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Governor Zell Miller. His leadership has helped generations of young Georgians build a future for themselves and our state
— Drew Ferguson (@RepDrewFerguson) March 23, 2018
R.I.P. Zell Miller.
Thank you for giving me HOPE!
— Dar'shun Kendrick (@DarshunKendrick) March 23, 2018
Zell Miller put my four sisters and me through all of Georgia’s finest public universities. Thank you for giving us HOPE. Rest In Peace, Gov. #gapol
— Bee Nguyen (@BeeForGeorgia) March 23, 2018
With deep sorrow, we remember and honor Zell Miller, a standout public servant who worked hard for Georgians both as governor and as senator.
— Richard Woods (@SuptWoods) March 23, 2018
— Sheri Gilligan (@SheriGilligan) March 23, 2018
was saddened to hear of the death of Zell Miller. A long time fixture in Georgia politics, his leadership on education, support for social programs, and belief in the working and middle class have had a mighty impact on me. #gapol #gadems
— Fred Swann (@SwannforGA) March 23, 2018
Fellow Georgians and even those outside of the state also honored Miller on social media:
One of my favorite Zell Miller stories, about his ‘94 re-election, from Richard Hyatt’s excellent bio of him. pic.twitter.com/3UESGPb2Z5
— Andrew DeMillo (@ademillo) March 23, 2018
We lost a patriot today. Senator Zell Miller and I had a wild exchange at the ’04 GOP convention in NY. We later exchanged letters and he was wonderfully gracious. He deserves respect for his service to the country, the military, and political life.
— Chris Matthews (@HardballChris) March 23, 2018
Our family is very thankful Zell Miller served our state. A life well lived. His influence helped families lift out of poverty and will felt for generations to come. May he rest in peace.
— Mark Knowles (@MarkKnowlesGA) March 23, 2018
Rest In Peace Governor Zell Miller. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet you. 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/n2gEj5E5Vy
— Michael Strollo (@mcstrollo) March 23, 2018
Thankful for the legacy that Governor Miller left. Through his legislation and the implementation of the HOPE/Zell Miller scholarships, I am proudly able to attend the @universityofga. https://t.co/I5xYkZzW9b
— ashley tipton (@KenyaArianaa) March 23, 2018
My thoughts and prayers are with the family of friends of former GA Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller. Zell will forever be remembered as a fighter, a champion, and the man who gave Georgia HOPE. May he rest in peace. 💔😰 #wsbtv @wsbtv #ZellMiller pic.twitter.com/F6BUyVvmG9
— Niles Edward Francis (@niles_francis) March 23, 2018
Thanks to the Zell Miller scholarship a lot of my friends have been able to attend college without putting themselves in incredible debt. RIP Zell Miller.
— Justin (@WatashiWaJus10) March 23, 2018
Other notable Georgians released statements:
“Zell Miller lived a life filled with courage and the resolve to lead,” Rep. Handel said. “He served our state and this country as a Marine, Mayor, State Senator, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, U.S. Senator, and regardless of title, a statesman. All of us are better off for his life, and his service. This is especially true for the 1.8 million Georgians – and counting – that have benefitted from higher education because of his HOPE scholarship program. Steve and I send our condolences to Shirley and the entire Miller family.”
-District 6 U.S. Rep. Karen Handel
“Marty and I, along with all of Georgia, mourn the loss of a true public servant, Governor Zell Miller, who leaves behind an enduring legacy as a bold and brave leader,” said Secretary Kemp. “His efforts championing education set real opportunity within reach of so many citizens of our state through the creation of the HOPE scholarship and our nation’s first pre-kindergarten program, and we are all inspired by the unwavering values which characterized this statesman’s career. We extend our sympathies and prayers to Mrs. Shirley and the rest of the Miller family.”
-Secretary of State Brian Kemp
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