Former Georgia Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller has passed away at age 86.
He died at his home after being treated for Parkinson's Disease. After his diagnosis for Parkinson's, Miller retired from public life. “Zell has good days and bad days,” his grandson Bryan told CBS46 News in 2017.
Miller served as Georgia's governor from 1991-1999. He defeated Johnny Isakson in the race after beating Andrew Young and Roy Barnes in the primary. He was later succeeded by Barnes.
He is currently the longest serving Lieutenant Governor in Georgia history. Miller also served as the keynote speaker during the 2004 Republican National Convention.
He was born in the Towns County community of Young Harris in 1932 and served as mayor of the town from 1959-1960 before becoming a Georgia State Senator from 1961-1964.
He's also very well known for the creation of the Georgia HOPE scholarship. More than 1.8 million students have gone to college in Georgia on HOPE Scholarships and more than 1.6 million four-year olds have begun their education through Georgia’s Pre-K Program.
These were his proudest achievements in his 46-year career in public service.
Statements on his passing
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal released this statement Friday morning on the passing of Miller:
"It is with a heavy heart that Sandra and I offer Shirley our deepest condolences on the passing of her devoted husband, Zell. Georgia has lost a favorite son and a true statesmen, and I’ve lost a dear friend. Zell’s legacy is unequaled and his accomplishments in public service are innumerable. Without question, our state and our people are better off because of him."
"But the mark Zell made in his private life—as a dutiful son, a loving husband, and a proud father and grandfather—are the ones of which I’m sure he was most proud. I was honored to serve with him in the Senate and have cherished his counsel for decades. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones, of which he had many. May God bless him and keep him."
Former Georgia Governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue
“Mary and I are saddened to learn of the death of our friend, Zell Miller. A son of the mountains of north Georgia, he dedicated his life to this country, and to Georgia, as a veteran and faithful public servant. His legacy as a state legislator, lieutenant governor, governor, and U.S. senator, particularly in expanding educational opportunities for Georgia students, will resonate for generations to come. We have no doubt that in Heaven, the Marine is having a feisty debate with some of his old friends right now. Mary and I are praying for Shirley, the entire Miller family, and Zell’s many friends. May he rest in peace.”
U.S. Senator David Perdue
“Bonnie and I join all Georgians in mourning the loss of former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller. Zell Miller touched the lives of many as a teacher, Marine, public servant, and friend. Throughout his career, Zell Miller 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."
"Because of his work on the HOPE Scholarship Program, over 1.8 million Georgians have been able to attend a public college or university in Georgia who may not have been able to otherwise. His legacy will live on through them. Bonnie and I are praying for Shirley and the Miller family during this very difficult time.”
Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
“One of the great honors of my time in public service was serving under Governor Zell Miller. We will remember Zell as the Governor who gave Georgia Hope – a true statesman who helped build the foundation that allowed our state to prosper. Through his passion for education, love for the people of our state, and dedication to giving Georgians the same opportunities that led a boy from a small mountain town to become one of the greatest leaders of the 20th Century, Governor Miller leaves a legacy that will always be honored and celebrated.
“All of Georgia’s families and communities will feel the benefits of Governor Miller’s dedicated service for generations to come, and he will continue to set an example for what public service should be about. I know I speak for many Georgians when I say we will truly miss Zell Miller.
"Nita and I send our most sincere condolences to Shirley and the entire Miller family.”
Georgia State Representative Barry Loudermilk
"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."
Georgia State Senator Butch Miller
“Governor Miller was a friend to all who knew him. I knew him through my father-in-law, Jack Carey. Jack and Governor Miller were very close, having attended college together. One of my fondest memories of him is when he appeared on the Billy Dilworth Show.
Governor Miller truly had a positive impact on everyone he met and his impact on their lives will never be forgotten. He is an example of someone whose kingdom and legacy is not measured by what he had, but by what he did and the legacy he left behind. His commitment to this state and its citizens is truly commendable and will never be forgotten. He will have a lasting impact on Georgia through his message of honesty, decency, integrity and public service.
We will keep his family, friends and all of those he impacted in our thoughts and prayers. Today Georgia lost a legend, but his legacy will live on forever.”
CARE President, CEO Michelle Nunn
“I am so saddened to learn of Zell Miller’s death. He was a strong and independent voice for Georgia whose legacy will live on in the hope he inspired in close to a million scholarship students. He and Shirley lived their lives with a deep commitment to public service and an abiding love for our state. His friendship and support was a great honor to me and so many others who enjoyed it over the years. I will always relish the opportunity to sit with him on the front porch of his old stone house in Young Harris, built by his mother, and beloved until the end by a unique and historic Georgian.”
Georgia Lottery Corporation
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Georgia Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Miller family during this difficult time.
Gov. Miller’s vision to establish a lottery in Georgia with profits earmarked for specific educational programs has made an indelible mark on our state.
“On behalf of the Georgia Lottery Corporation board, employees, and most importantly, Georgia’s students, we are grateful for Governor Miller’s foresight and leadership. Thanks to him more than 3 million students have benefitted from HOPE and Pre-K,” stated Georgia Lottery President and CEO Gretchen Corbin.
Since the Georgia Lottery’s inception in 1993, $19.3 billion has been raised for education in Georgia, including Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program. More than 1.8 million students have benefited from lottery-funded HOPE scholarships and grants, and more than 1.6 million 4-year-olds have attended lottery-funded Pre-K.
The legacy of Gov. Miller will live on in the millions of students and their families who have been positively impacted by Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE and Pre-K.
Georgia Congressman David Scott
“It is with deep sadness to hear of the passing of my dear friend and partner Zell Miller.
“Governor Zell Miller is a legend. His contributions to Georgia are legendary in so many ways, especially higher education as the author and creator of Georgia’s Hope Scholarship Program.
“Governor Miller was not only my good friend and partner, but he was my mentor throughout my career in public service as a State Representative for 8 years, State Senator for 20 years and now 15 years as a U.S. Congressman. He appointed me when he was Lieutenant Governor and helped me to become Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, making me the first African American to hold that powerful position. He also appointed me as Chairman of the Higher Education Committee.
“I not only admire Zell Miller, but I truly love Zell Miller because he truly loved and helped David Scott make it all the way up the ladder to serve today as a United States Congressman of Georgia. May we all be inspired to continue Zell Miller’s deeply impactful legacy of service.”
Georgia Congressman Jody Hice
“Today is a sad day for the State of Georgia as we mourn the loss of an icon who fearlessly advocated for our state,” said Congressman Hice. “We, as Georgians, are grateful for Zell Miller’s principled leadership and service to our state and our country. His public service and commitment to serving the people of Georgia remains unparalleled. He was a trailblazer and role model for many who would follow in his footsteps. It is with great sadness and respect that I extend my deepest condolences to the Miller family, especially his wife, Shirley, his children and grandchildren, and his many friends. I hope it is a comfort to his family and friends that so many people share their tremendous loss and are praying for them in this difficult time.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Stay with CBS46 News for updates.
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