Former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, 86, died Friday morning at his home in Young Harris.
Miller was best known for pioneering the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship, which has provided nearly 9.5 billion dollars in financial assistance to millions of Georgia college students since its creation in 1992.
In July 2000, after two terms as governor, Miller was appointed to the U.S. Senate. He won a special election to keep the seat in November 2000 and remained in the Senate until 2005.
A conservative Democrat, Miller was keynote speaker for both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 1992 and 2004, respectively.
We talked with Chuck Reece, Miller's former press secretary, about his memories of working with the governor.
Adam Ragusea: Who was the Zell Miller that you knew?
Chuck Reece: The Zell Miller that I knew was dedicated, really, to two things: He wanted to make sure that children of Georgia had a chance to get a decent education, and secondly, he was dedicated to making sure that people who grew up without advantages had a way to step onto the social ladder and start climbing up it.
Ragusea: How do you recall his personality being when you first started working for him?
Reece: He of course was known as being a politician and was known for his occasional irascibility, particularly with the press, but he was a man who had a lot of passions outside politics, most particularly baseball and country music. He kept a copy of the "Baseball Encylopedia," a current edition, under his desk in the governor's office for easy reference when he needed it.
Ragusea: Where did that [HOPE] legislation come from? Was that his idea to begin with?
Reece: Absolutely. HOPE is an acronym that he made up — "Helping Outstanding Peoples Educationally." Not many people remember that, but that's the case. That was the key thing he wanted to do and that's what he ran in 1990 on.