Former 2-term Georgia governor dies at 86

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ATLANTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who led the charge for Georgia’s lottery-funded HOPE scholarships during his two terms as governor, has died. He was 86.

Lori Geary, a spokeswoman for the Miller Institute Foundation, said he died Friday morning. His grandson, Bryan Miller, said the former senator and governor died “peacefully surrounded by his family.”

Miller’s relatives announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Miller served as Georgia governor from 1991 to 1999. He was called out of retirement at age 68 in 2000 to fill the final four years of a Senate term. The lifelong Democrat spent most of the term attacking his own party for veering away from mainstream values, and cast many of his votes with Republicans.

Governor Nathan Deal released the following statement:

“Bonnie and I join all Georgians in mourning the loss of former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller. Zell Miller touched the lives of many as a teacher, Marine, public servant, and friend. Throughout his career, Zell Miller was a strong advocate for the value of a public education and made it his mission to ensure Georgia students had the opportunity to pursue a college degree. Because of his work on the HOPE Scholarship Program, over 1.8 million Georgians have been able to attend a public college or university in Georgia who may not have been able to otherwise. His legacy will live on through them. Bonnie and I are praying for Shirley and the Miller family during this very difficult time.”