The Beginning of Political Career

In the most fascinating valley of North Georgia rest Young Harris, a city in Towns County known only for Young Harris College where way back in February 24, 1932, Zell Bryan Miller was born. Both his father and mother were into local politics which introduced him to the world of public service and politics. Unfortunately his father died during his infancy and he was raised by his widowed mother who influenced him on the importance of family.

He took the first two years of his Baccalaureate degree at the Young Harris College and achieved his Bachelors and Masters degrees in History at the University of Georgia. Miller enlisted to the Marines where he served for three years with the rank of sergeant and was discharged as the Korean War ended. He wrote a book entitled Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know I Learned in the Marines. The book brought him memories and experiences which he hold dear to his heart helping him achieve a productive as well as a celebrated life.

At the young age of 27, he started his political career as a Democrat and Mayor of his town from 1959 to 1960. He was elected twice as Georgia State senator in the 1960s   though he failed to seek his party nomination to the United States House of Representatives (Hornsby). Miller started his service in the government as Governor Chief of Staff in Georgia. For four terms (1975-1991), he persisted serving the public as Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 1974. Such made him the longest-serving lieutenant governor in the history of Georgia.

In 1990, Miller was elected governor of Georgia and in 1991 endorsed Governor Clinton of Arkansas for the United States Presidency. The endorsement was widely believed to have supported Governor Clinton and eventually gained him the nomination after a rough sailing in the Democratic primaries. In the Democratic Convention in 1992, he gave the keynote speech which contained unpopular lines about Republican candidates which until today was being said against him. Thus, he became one of the most outspoken senators in the country.

Miller was an enthusiastic advocate of free education (Hornsby). As such, he helped create the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship which paid the tuition fees of students with a GPA of 3 in high school and those who maintain it through college. HOPE Scholarship Program was dubbed as the most innovative College Scholarship program in the country and widely praise by the National Democratic leaders. The Scholarship Program message to Georgia’s students as well as to students all over the country is You Do Your Part and HOPE Will Do Its Part.

The program message is clearly spelled out to all Students that HOPE is not just a reward for hard work; it is an incentive to work hard. One set back of his career as Governor was when he openly spoke his mind on the removal of the confederate battle emblem from the Flag of Georgia. At the 1993 session of the Georgia General Assembly, Miller espoused a bill that aimed to change the flag. However, the Legislature did not ratify the bill. Although he dropped the issue in the 1994 election, these pieces of actions were used against him but he still won the re-election.

This re-election was believed to be the turning point of his career. In January 1999, right after he left the office, he became an appointed professor of Emory University, Young Harris College, and the University of Georgia. He was also appointed to the U. S. Senate following the death of a Georgia Republican Senator in 2000. Although the Democratic control of Georgia declined, Miller remained popular in the political environment of Georgia which led him to easily win the special election that kept his seat in the U. S. Senate in November 2000.