Zell Miller was born in Young Harris, Georgia on February 24, 1932 to Birdie Bryan and Stephen Grady Miller. He graduated from Young Harris College in 1951 and joined the United States Marine Corps from 1953 to 1956. After completion of his military service, he entered the University of Georgia where he earned a bachelor’s (1957) and master’s (1958) degree in history. In the fall of 1959, he accepted a position at Young Harris College teaching history and
Miller’s political career began in 1958 when he became mayor of Young Harris. In 1960 he was elected to the Georgia Senate. In 1964, he challenged incumbent Phil Landrum to represent Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District but was defeated. From 1964 to 1974 Miller held numerous appointed positions in state government which included work with the State Board for Children and Youth, the State Board of Probation, the Board of Corrections, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Georgia Democratic Party. He also served as an aide to Governor Lester Maddox and later became his executive secretary.
Above: Both Tommy Irvin (center) and Zell Miller (left) were sworn in by Governor Lester Maddox (right) on the same day in 1969. Irwin was assigned the post of Commissioner of Agriculture and Miller was Maddox’s Executive Secretary.
In 1974, Miller was elected lieutenant governor and served four terms total. During his time in office he supported initiatives to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, to establish state-wide kindergarten programs, as well as efforts for campaign finance reform. He also worked to open previously closed senate committee meetings to the press and public. As lieutenant governor Miller and other top state officials engaged in trade missions to countries such as Germany and Japan to generate interest in capital investments in the state. In 1980, he ran for the democratic nomination for United States Senate and lost to incumbent Herman Talmadge.
Below: Miller holds a newspaper in front of the Georgia Legislature that heralds Georgia schools as 4th in the nation, 1997.
In 1990, Miller ran a successful campaign for the office of governor, defeating Andrew Young in the democratic primary and Johnny Isakson in the general election. Perhaps the most important reform of the Miller administration was the adoption of the state lottery. By law all lottery revenue had to be spent on education and Miller directed the funds generated to three main programs: the creation of the HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship, the establishment of a voluntary pre-Kindergarten program, and improvements in technology in the state's secondary schools and colleges.
In June of 2000, Republican United State Senator Paul Coverdell died in office and Governor Roy Barnes appointed Miller to the vacant seat in July. He won a special election in November of 2000 to remain in Washington, D.C. to finish Coverdell’s original term, promising to fulfill the late Senator’s conservative objectives. It is widely noted that Miller did this in his service in the Senate through his increased support of the Republican Party, which culminated in his keynote address at the 2004 Republican National Convention in support of President George W. Bush.
The Zell Miller Papers consist of office files and personal papers including correspondence, speeches, press releases, clippings, subject files, position papers, memoranda, photographs, publications, memorabilia and scrapbooks from Miller’s career, through his term as Governor.
Topics of particular interest include: changes in education in Georgia through the creation of the HOPE scholarship and a state-side kindergarten program, the creation of a lottery, trade missions to market Georgia overseas, advocacy for musicians and cultural heritage initiatives, promoting ethics in lobbying, changing the state flag, promoting land and water conservation, and abolishing tax on groceries.
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