Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller passed away on Friday, March 23 at age 86 following a battle with Parkinson’s disease.
It sounds strange in the current political climate, but Miller was an independent thinker and not wed to the concept of partisan politics. He was essentially a conservative Democrat. In fact, Miller was selected to speak at the 2004 GOP convention as a Democrat in support of former President Georgia W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
In contrast to his endorsement of Bush’s campaign, Miller was the keynote speaker at the 1992 Democratic National Convention in support of Arkansas Democratic Governor Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
In Miller’s best selling book, A National Party No More, he stated, “I was born a Democrat. It’s not simply a party affiliation; it’s more like a birthmark for me and many of my fellow mountaineers. There’s actually a small pinkish spot on the back of my neck just like my father’s. Both the birthmark and allegiance to the Democratic Party have been handed down in my family from one generation to the next. Time does not erase it. It is part of our DNA.
“I would no more think of changing parties than I would think of changing my name. To change would be like walking on my mother’s grave.”
I have had a great appreciation for Zell Miller. I heard him speak at a Georgia Right to Life Banquet several years ago and his testimony would have been welcomed in any Georgia Baptist church in the state.
I was not happy when the lottery was adopted during Miller’s administration as Georgia’s governor. However, Miller was from the North Georgia mountain town of Young Harris and even taught history and political science at Young Harris College. It may have been his passion to see young people educated that motivated him to promote the lottery as a means of enhancing the education of Georgia’s youth. Indeed, there were many who thought the lottery was justified because it provided money for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarships and Georgia’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program.
Many think Miller’s vision to create a lottery in Georgia with profits designated for specific educational programs has improved the state in a myriad of ways. Others would agree with me that the collateral damage must to be taken into account before giving the lottery unilateral praise.
However, we can bless God for Miller’s stand against abortion. When other politicians were becoming pro-choice for the sake of political expedience Miller was becoming pro-life, because he knew it was right.
In his book Miller stated, “Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Dick Gephardt, to name a few, started their political careers opposing abortion. Over the years they all changed their positions to pro-choice. My own evolution on this issue has been just the opposite. Personal experience again reshaped my thinking.”
Miller was a million miles from a socialist mindset as is the case with many politicians today. He stated, “Too many politicians just don’t understand that most people with any pride or self-esteem do not want something for nothing because it belittles them.
“As powerful as government is, it can only do so much by itself. Government can never take the place of parents in raising children. Government can never take the place of families and churches and synagogues in teaching values. Government can never take the place of people in our communities working together and looking out for each other.”
Miller was also an advocate of the Second Amendment. He stated, “Too many people don’t understand that the gun issue is not just about guns. It’s about values; it’s about personal freedom; it’s about individual responsibility. Our values say we have to protect our freedom by all means possible and guns are one of those means.”
Our hearts go out to the Miller family and we offer our sincere condolences to those who mourn his passing. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, stated, “America could use more leaders like Zell, who are willing to stand for what’s right, no matter their political party.”