By Mike Dorough
I was a University of Georgia senior, majoring in Political Science, living my dream of serving as a Governor’s Intern during the 1986 Georgia General Assembly. Joe Frank Harris was our Governor, a position I hoped to hold one day. I was serving with the Georgia Council on Maternal and Infant Health, tracking legislation on their behalf during the General Assembly.
I wrongly assumed that by interning with that agency, I would be able to advocate for pro-life causes. Unfortunately, the Director of the agency at that time did not share my pro-life convictions. I was stunned that the Director of an agency to protect mothers and children would have no problem with the slaughter of innocent babies. She made it VERY clear to me that if I advocated for pro-life legislation, I could not identify myself with her agency. I honored her request to make this very clear when I spoke with legislators.
A number of us joined with Georgia Right to Life in working very hard to secure all the votes needed to pass a parental notification bill for minors seeking an abortion. By God’s grace, we had the needed votes in the State House and Senate to pass this legislation, which Governor Harris would have gladly signed. Democrat Governor Harris was one of the most passionately pro-life Governors of my lifetime.
It was the last night of the session for that year. We anxiously awaited then Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller bringing the bill up for a vote in the State Senate, where he was presiding. As we approached “sine die,” Lt. Gov. Miller purposefully stalled for time to let the clock run out. He repeatedly said to the State Senators, “I’m warning you! Does anyone see what’s coming up next? Would anyone like to speak on a point of personal privilege?”
His motives were very clear. He did NOT want the bill to pass. When that Session ended without a vote on our legislation, I stood in line to speak to Lt. Gov. Miller. I patiently waited my turn and was as respectful as I knew how to be when I handed him a replica of ten-week-old, unborn baby.
I said, “Mr. Lt. Governor, I would like to give this to you as a reminder of all the babies who will die this year because of what you just did.” He erupted with anger, yelling at me, claiming that he was “FOR that bill.” Clearly, anyone present KNEW that was NOT the case. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the next day that Zell Miller attacked a lobbyist for Georgia Right to Life. I was not a lobbyist, just a young college student who believed in the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Needless to say, I had very little respect for Mr. Miller after that.
Fast-forward a number of years when I read then U.S. Senator Zell Miller’s autobiography. Apparently, he had been born-again in Christ! God changed his heart upon the birth of a great-grandchild! This “new creation in Christ” was now passionately pro-life. My heart greatly rejoiced!
Senator Miller spoke at several Right to Life events and endorsed pro-life candidates for office. At that time, I was serving as Youth Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA. The Holy Spirit prompted me to write Senator Miller (letter attached) and thank him for being an advocate for the unborn. I also reminded him of my encounter with him in 1986.
I was certain that he had no recollection of the event. Was I ever wrong! Almost three weeks later, I was BLESSED to receive the attached hand-written letter from Senator Miller. I have framed his letter and keep it on display in my office.
The letter from Senator Miller was dated 2/21/06 and reads as follows:
Dear Mike, I just got your letter of February 1st. It was finally forwarded to me in Young Harris, where I am 95% of the time. You will never know how much it meant to me. The event you mentioned is burned in my memory. I had forgotten it was you and have long wanted to apologize. I still have that replica. Keep me in your prayers. I was proud to see what you are doing. Hope to see you soon. Zell
To say that I was stunned, thankful, and humbled to receive this treasure from one of the most influential men in Georgia history was an understatement!
I am so thankful for the transformed life, legacy and memory of Senator Zell Miller, a great American and a great Georgian! May God comfort and bless his family and loved ones as they celebrate his life this week.
Mike Dorough is an evangelist in Gainesville.