Late Zell Miller recalled as the ‘Michelangelo’ of politics

FILE – In this July 13, 1992 file photo, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller waves to delegates at the Democratic Convention in New York. A family spokesperson said he died Friday, March 23, 2018. He was 86. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette)

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. (AP) — A governor and senator, friend and counselor to presidents, Zell Miller walked the marbled halls of American power. He was remembered more simply Monday as a “Methodist and Marine” whose accomplished public life was the outgrowth of personal virtues traced to his Appalachian roots.

“In the art of politics, he was Michelangelo,” his former aide and prominent Democratic strategist Paul Begala told several hundred mourners at Young Harris College in Miller’s hometown, where he was born during the Great Depression and died Friday. Miller was 86.

“He knew not only how to win power in elections, but how to wield power in office,” said Begala, who worked on the 1990 campaign for governor that Miller won on the promise of a lottery that has permanently changed Georgia’s education system.

Monday’s funeral service launched three days of public honors for Miller, who served as Georgia’s governor from 1991 to 1999 and U.S. senator from 2000 to 2005. There will be a second funeral Tuesday at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, where three former presidents will speak: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Afterward, Miller’s remains will lie in state at the Georgia Capitol until a state funeral Wednesday.

Miller is remembered throughout Georgia as architect of an education lottery that has financed pre-kindergarten programs for 1.6 million children cumulatively, while providing HOPE college scholarships for 1.8 million more. Like most white Southern politicians of his generation, he once opposed civil rights legislation, but later condemned his own inaction and fought, unsuccessfully, to remove Confederate insignia from the Georgia state flag.

He is sometimes recalled nationally as the stridently independent Democrat who late in his career accused his party of veering left and coddling terrorists; he opposed same-sex marriage and in 2004,…

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