It’s appropriate that Zell Miller passed away in the middle of spring training for this is the time of the year that the feisty old shortstop yearned to grab a bat and field a few bouncing balls behind second base.
He won’t get to see any ball games this season for Zell Bryan Miller died Friday morning. He was 86.
In 1997, I became his biographer and I am not ashamed to say that along the way he became my friend. I got to know him at many levels. I knew him when he was a Democrat, and I knew him when he wasn’t sure. I heard him deliver classic eulogies that would make listeners believe he liked the person he was speaking about.
Now that he’s gone, many people are going to write many things about who Zell was and what offices he held in a unmatched career. I’ll wait and write my tribute later.
Right now I want to remember the many layers of this complicated man:
He was the mayor of Young Harris and he served in the Georgia State Senate.
He was Georgia’s lieutenant governor for 16 years, served two terms as governor then spent five years in Washington as a member of the United States Senate.
He was the creator of the Hope Scholarship, an innovative idea that has helped hundreds of young Georgians afford a college education — a plan that has changed our state almost as much as air-conditioning.
He was a college professor, just like his Daddy.
He was raised by a colorful mama named Birdie and has had a wonderful, patient wife named Shirley who finished the job.
He wrote a New York Times bestseller.
He knew several Presidents of the United States and he even liked some of them.
He went to Madison Square Garden twice to give the keynote address at two political conventions.
He challenged a TV commentator to a duel on national television and probably meant every word he said.
He was friends with country music legends and hung out with members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was sometimes a rascal but always a United States Marine.
The people of Georgia lost a dear friend Friday morning — and so did I.