Zell Miller Papers, Series I: PersonalZell Miller Papers, Series I: Personal

Zell Miller Papers, Series I: Personal

Descriptive Summary

Title: Zell Miller Papers, Series I: Personal
Creator: Miller, Zell Bryan, 1932-
Dates: 1941-1959
Extent: 1.0 box
Extent: (.25 linear feet)
Collection Number: RBRL/213/ZM
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: The Zell Miller Papers document Miller’s forty-five year career in Georgia politics, including his service as a U.S. Senator (2000-2005), Governor of Georgia (1991-1999), Lieutenant Governor of Georgia (1975-1991), Executive Director of the Georgia Democratic Party (1971-1973), member of the State Boards of Pardons and Paroles, Probation, and Children and Youth (1964-1973), Executive Secretary to Governor Lester Maddox (1969-1971), State Senator (1961-1965), and Mayor of Young Harris, Georgia (1959-1960). This series includes materials from his childhood, Marine Corps service, and education at the University of Georgia.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Zell Bryan Miller was born on February 24, 1932 to Stephen Grady Miller, Dean of Young Harris College and former state senator (40th district, 1926-1928), and Birdie Bryan Miller, an art teacher at the same institution. Seventeen days after his son’s birth, Stephen Miller passed away. Birdie Miller and their two children, Jane and Zell, remained in Young Harris until the onset of World War II, when they moved to Atlanta so that Mrs. Miller could work at the Bell Bomber plant making buckles for gas masks in support of the war effort. While there, Miller attended Williams Street Elementary School and Luckie Street Elementary School and developed a life-long love of baseball.

At the end of the war, the Miller family moved back to Young Harris and Miller continued his education at Young Harris Academy, graduating in 1949. He continued on to Young Harris Junior College and graduated in 1951. During that time he met Shirley Ann Carver of Cherokee County, North Carolina, who was attending college in preparation for law school; they were married on January 15, 1954. Miller joined the United States Marine Corps in 1953 and spent three years in service. After basic training, he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, serving in an artillery regiment and writing for the base newspaper, The Globe, and editing the regimental newspaper, The Cannoneer. He received the Good Conduct Medal and the Expert Rifleman’s Medal and left the Marine Corps with the rank of sergeant.

After receiving an honorable discharge in 1956, Miller entered the University of Georgia and was awarded a bachelor’s (1957) and master’s (1958) degree in history. During his time in Athens he held a variety of jobs, including tutor for members of the football team and cook at Allen’s Hamburgers. After graduation he accepted a position teaching history and political science at Young Harris College and also served as faculty advisor for the Enotah Echoes and coached the baseball team.

Echoing his parents’ civic involvement, Miller became active in local politics and was elected as Mayor of Young Harris in 1958. He won a seat in the state senate representing the 40th district (Towns, Union, and Rabun counties) in 1960 after making an agreement with college administrators that he could take off winter quarter to serve in the Capitol if he taught extra classes during the other quarters. During the 1961 and 1962 sessions, Miller served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the County and Municipal Government Committee, and as secretary of the Educational Matters Committee.

In 1962, the county-unit system of voting in Georgia was abolished due to the judicial panel ruling of the Gray vs. Sanders lawsuit. The area that fell under Miller’s representation changed from three counties to sections of eight (Towns, Union, Rabun, White, Habersham, Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens counties). He won his seat again and was able to enter the session with seniority that might not have been afforded him had redistricting not taken place. His committee appointments in 1963 and 1964 were the Appropriations Committee, Educational Matters Committee, Rules Committee, and he acted as Chair of the Health and Welfare Committee.

Miller opted to run for the U.S. House of Representatives against Phil Landrum in the 1964 Democratic Primary to represent the ninth district. He lost by 5,176 votes according to the Georgia Statistical Register but carried Banks, Barrow, Cherokee, Fannin, Forsythe, Gwinnett and Towns counties. The same year he served on the State Board for Children and Youth but resigned in 1965 to be the Director of the State Board of Probation. He ran against Landrum again in 1966 for the same congressional seat but lost the primary by a wider margin than two years earlier.

Miller spent 1967 and 1968 serving as a personnel officer on the State Board of Corrections then becoming the assistant director until January 22, 1970. In 1969, Governor Lester Maddox appointed him to be his executive secretary after former Executive Secretary Tommy Irvin was named State Commissioner of Agriculture. Miller was concurrently selected to be the State Commissioner of Conservation, a post he held until 1970. He continued to work with Maddox through June of 1971, when he was named Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, a position he held until 1973. Miller represented the state of Georgia as a delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. In April 1973, he took a position on the Board of Pardons and Parole.

On December 31, 1973, Miller tendered his resignation to the Board in order to run for the office of Lieutenant Governor. Together, he and Shirley Miller spent 1974 campaigning around the state against nine other candidates including Max Cleland and J. B. Stoner. The Democratic Primary in August resulted in a run-off between Miller and Mary Hitt on September 3, 1974 in which he received 60.82% of the vote. In November he ran against Republican John Savage and won by almost 300,000 votes.

Zell Miller’s tenure as lieutenant governor lasted for sixteen years and was the longest term of any lieutenant governor in the state of Georgia’s history. His successive terms of service in that position were also a first in the history of the office since its establishment in 1946. Miller’s time in office was notably marked by his relationship with Thomas “Tom” Murphy, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1973 to 2002. Their positions as leaders of the state senate and house, respectively, put them publicly at odds on numerous issues. Although both were Democrats, their personal leanings within the party also added to their differences as Miller was widely considered more progressive than Murphy.

During his time in office, Miller worked on such projects and initiatives as opening previously closed senate committee meetings to the press and public, supporting the ratification of ERA, campaign finance reform, hand gun legislation, tax reform, welfare increase, and state-wide kindergarten programs. He and other top state officials began engaging in trade missions to countries such as Germany and Japan to generate interest in capital investments in the state.

Miller’s love of country music was well-known and proven by his repeated use of country music lyrics in his speeches as well as his use of music to support his campaigns, beginning with Whispering Bill Anderson in 1964. The annual Zell Miller Birthday Party, which began in 1968 as a small gathering featuring friends who were musicians, rose to its height in 1978 as a campaign fundraiser when Miller was running for his second term as lieutenant governor. He was a major supporter of a tape and record anti-piracy bill (sponsored by Representative Al Burns), which was signed into law by Governor George Busbee in 1975, and one of the biggest advocates for establishing the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

In 1980, Senator Herman Talmadge was up for reelection and Miller opted to run against him. Although he made it through the Democratic Primary and forced a run-off with Talmadge, their negative campaigns and a series of bitter debates cost Miller the party nomination and Talmadge the election (which he lost to Republican Mack Mattingly). In 1988, Miller decided to run for governor in the 1990 election. He assembled a campaign staff including Paul Begala, James Carville, Jim Andrews, Doug Kelly, Keith Mason, and Steve Wrigley. In the primary, Miller defeated Andrew Young and then Johnny Isakson in the general election. His chosen platform and the most important reform of his administration was the adoption of the state lottery. By law all lottery revenue had to be spent on education, and Miller directed the bulk of it to the HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship for students who had earned at least a B average and to improve technology in the schools and colleges.

In addition to the lottery, Miller gained approval for an ethics bill that required lobbyists to report what they spend trying to influence legislation and set new limits on campaign financing, an anti-crime package, welfare reform, and “boot camp” prisons for non-violent criminals, mountain protection legislation and congressional reapportionment. He drew the ire of many Georgians for calling for a change in the state flag, which had flown since 1956, but was unsuccessful in his attempt.

In 1994, Miller defeated Guy Millner in the general election and was elected to a second term as governor. One of the major hallmarks of his second term was the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, which were held in Atlanta. His other achievements included abolishing sales tax for groceries, raising the salaries of teachers, and advocating the Preservation 2000 and RiverCare 2000 programs, which promoted state acquisition of undeveloped land and waterways for conservation and public access purposes.

Miller’s involvement with the Democratic National Party reached its zenith in the 1990s. His friendship with Arkansas Governor and later President Bill Clinton placed him in a position to influence the party. Miller introduced his 1990 campaign advisor James Carville to Clinton and also gave the keynote at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. He was also active in drafting the party platform in 1996.

Upon leaving the Governor’s Mansion in January of 1999, Miller accepted adjunct teaching positions at the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Young Harris College. In June of 2000, Republican United States Senator Paul Coverdell died 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. and 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. He also authored two books critiquing the Democratic Party, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat (2004) and A Deficit of Decency (2005).

Miller has authored several other books outside of his political career. They include: The Mountains Within Me (1975), Great Georgians (1983), They Heard Georgia Singing (1985), Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know I Learned In the Marines (1997), Listen to This Voice: Selected Speeches of Governor Zell Miller (1999), The Miracle of Brasstown Valley (2007), and Purt Nigh Gone: The Old Mountain Ways (2009).

Scope and Content

The personal series consists of items belonging to Miller prior to his political career. Items include newspaper articles that he wrote as a teenager in Young Harris as well as while he was in the Marine Corps. Miller’s diplomas from the University of Georgia are also in this series.

Organization and Arrangement

Series I. Personal is in original order.

Because of the size of this collection, the remainder of the series are described in separate finding aids. A collection summary, including links to each of these series finding aids, is available online: Zell Miller Papers: Collection Summary.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Access Restrictions

This series is open for research use.

Preferred Citation

Zell Miller Papers, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.

Processing Notes

Clippings and thermofax papers have been copied onto bond paper for protection of content. Photographs, artifacts, oversized items, and audiovisual materials have been separated for preservation. Scrapbooks have been microfilmed.

User Restrictions

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

Copyright Information

Before material from collections at the Richard B. Russell Library may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permissions. Persons wishing to quote from materials in the Russell Library collection should consult the Director. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2010.


Related Materials

Access Points

Education--Georgia.
Miller, Zell Bryan, 1932-
United States. Marine Corps.
Young Harris College.

Related Collections in this Repository

Birdie Bryan Miller Papers

Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Series

Keith Mason Papers

William H. (Bill) Burson Scrapbooks

Clifford (Baldy) Baldowski Editorial Cartoons

Thomas Gresham Collection of Lester Maddox Speeches

Bill Shipp Papers

Clifford H. Brewton Collection of Lester Maddox Speech/Press Records

Democratic Party of Georgia Papers

Ed Jenkins Papers

George Busbee Collection

T. Rogers Wade Collection of Herman E. Talmadge Materials

Joe Frank Harris Papers

Richard Hyatt Research Files

Related Collections in Other Repositories

Lester Maddox Photographs, Atlanta History Center

Georgia Lieutenant Governor's Office, Zell Miller, Georgia Archives

Georgia Office of the Governor, Zell Miller, Georgia Archives

Georgia Political Heritage Program, University of West Georgia

Thomas B. Murphy Collection, University of West Georgia

Joseph Elvin Duncan Papers, University of West Georgia

Charles H. Prout research materials on Georgia governors, Georgia Historical Society

Helen Bullard Papers, Emory University

Georgia Government Documentation Project, Georgia State University

Zell Miller Commercials, Political Commercial Archive, University of Oklahoma


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

 

I. Personal

Extent: 11.0 folders
Scope and Content: This series consists of items belonging to Miller prior to his political career. Items include newspaper articles that he wrote as a teenager in Young Harris as well as while he was in the Marine Corps. Miller’s diplomas from the University of Georgia are also in this series.
BoxFolder
I.11Clippings, 1956
I.12Enotah Echoes, 1949 February 1
I.13Final Message to the General Assembly of Georgia by Governor E. D. Rivers, 1941 January
I.14Georgia Alumni Record, Coulter Article, 1958 February
I.15[Miller Article] Camp Lejeune Globe, 1955-1956
I.16[Miller house essay], 1957
I.17Parris Island Letter, 1953 August
I.18Roll and grade Book, 1958, 1959
I.19University of Georgia Commencement Program, 1957 June 10; 1958 August 21
I.110University of Georgia Diploma, Bachelor of Arts, 1957 June
I.111University of Georgia Diploma, Master of Arts, 1959 August