Bryan Miller gives eulogy for Governor Zell Bryan Miller

Atlanta, GA — On Tuesday, March 28, 2018, the Celebration of Life was held for Zell Miller at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.  Bryan Miller, grandson of Zell Miller and CEO of the Miller Institute Foundation, delivered words of remembrance for his beloved grandfather.


On behalf of our family, I want to thank all of you for joining us this morning. Over the past few days, we have mourned together the loss of one of Georgia’s finest public servants. Our family has mourned the loss of our patriarch and beloved “PaPa”.

I knew Zell Miller as his grandson. But our relationship went deeper than the normal bounds of that familial relationship. He was my mentor both personally and professionally. I gained more wisdom and knowledge from Zell Miller than any other person I have encountered in life.

A lot has been said these past few days about the legacy of public service he leaves behind. No doubt we will hear more about this legacy in the days, months, and even years to come.

But this morning, I want to focus on the individual, and share the source of his great public and personal legacy. Zell was a teacher at heart. That title meant more to him than any other he obtained throughout his career. Whether he was at his home or yours, in the state capital, or in Washington, DC, Zell was a constant learner and gifted teacher. Our family and those who were closest to him were blessed to graduate from “Zell Miller University.”

I am confident he would not want this moment to pass without the opportunity to remind and instill in others what he valued as life’s greatest lessons. And so, please allow me to share a few lessons from my favorite “teacher” and what I believe he would want in his final lecture on life.

On persistence, Zell once said, “Dare greatly. Reject the rejection. And never, never give up.”

On loyalty, Zell wrote “when I became governor, it was loyalty that kept me from getting a big head and making big mistakes. I always knew where I came from, and where I was going back to. In the North Georgia Mountains, from which I get my sense of place, we have a saying, “if you ever see a turtle on a fence post, you know one thing, it did not get there by itself. Someone put it there.”

On respect, “Consistent respect for ourselves and others will go a long way toward solving many of the problems of society.”

And on courage, “No human attribute is more needed, or more sadly lacking, in today’s climate of expediency and self-gratification than courage.”

Zell was a prolific writer.  He constantly put pen to paper when he realized something he learned or thought could benefit others. Some of that writing became laws that still benefit us today. Some of that writing became essays and books for us to study. And, some of that writing became letters many of you may have received that is just what you needed to hear. 

On his 70th birthday, February 24, 2002, Zell wrote a personal letter to our family called “Some Lessons Learned by 70.” It was 14 lessons Zell had learned by 70 that he wanted his family know. Each one is just as important today as it was 16 years ago. I would like to share them with you all today:

  1. Do not be afraid to fail while going after something you really want. You will always learn from it. Never Give Up. Persistence will overcome everything else. I guarantee it.
  2. If you listen more than you talk, you will not only learn more, but people will think you are smarter, not dumber, than you really are.
  3. For every action there is a consequence – always. It can be a good consequence or a bad one, but it will come just as sure as night follows the day.
  4. Use frequently but sincerely the words, “I’m sorry”, “Thank you”, and “I love you.”
  5. Being on time will be noted and will impress people. Being late is a very rude thing to do. It says to the other people, “my time is more important than your time.” A person who is always late is a selfish person. Mark it down.
  6. Being mentally tough will help you more in life than being physically tough.
  7. Whiners are terrible people to be around. Don’t be one. Ask yourself from time to time, “Am I whining too much?” Blaming others for your own misfortune is the same thing and just as bad.
  8. Notice and appreciate what makes your heart leap up. If nothing does, examine your life because something is missing.
  9. Search for your niche. This may take years, although often it occurs early in life. There is something out there that you can do better or easier than other people. You have a knack or talent for it. Find it. It’s there. And when you do, others will beat a path to your door to get you to do it for them. It may bring fame, fortune or happiness. Keep in mind that there are also things you just simply cannot do very well, but there are others who can. If you’re lucky, you will marry them.
  10. From time to time, make yourself do something you don’t really want to do. It will make you stronger.
  11. Smoking will shorten your life. I’ve seen too many loved ones die because of it.
  12. Family and home are important. One should know where he came from and who suffered or sacrificed to get us where we are. Having a sense of family and having a sense of place is going to be increasingly hard in this modern, fast moving, ever-changing world. But if you do, it will bring you comfort and stability.
  13. Those who teach lessons are not smart or know everything. They’ve just lived a long time.
  14. Keep a good sense of humor, and laugh at yourself more than you do others.

Several books can be written on the lessons Zell Miller taught us. For me personally, some of the most important are these: 

  • Every person has a gift or talent, that when put to use, can make this world a better place. When you find yours, use it to help others find theirs.
  • The fruits of labor come only to those who first labor for the fruit.
  • Marry your best friend. If you are lucky, that person will also be your toughest critic.
  • And finally, take what you want, sayeth the Lord, take it and pay for it.

This is by far, the creed and philosophy, in which Zell Miller lived his life. He was an adult before he learned that verse was not in the Bible, even though it originated from the Gospel according to Saint Birdie.

In high school, and even when I was a student at Young Harris College, my grandparents and I would regularly attend Sharp Memorial United Methodist Church together, and afterwards we always had Sunday lunch, usually in the dining hall at the College. That was our thing. It was our special time together…and another chance to learn from my favorite teacher.

When I graduated, my grandparents gave me a Bible. In it, Zell wrote, “Some of the happiest moments of our lives, have been when you sat between us in the pew, at Sharp Memorial United Methodist Church.”

I keep this Bible in the desk in my office, to remind me of some of the happiest moments of my life as well.

Zell taught me how to be a good man, citizen, son, and husband.

Zell taught many of us how to lead and be a good friend.

But, most of all, Zell taught us how to live a happy life in the service of others.

May you rest in peace my favorite Teacher. MY…PaPa… until we meet again.  


To view the services and obituary and share remembrances and condolences, please visit:

As the founder of the Miller Institute Foundation, Bryan Miller started the foundation as a way to preserve and promote the legacy of Governor Zell Miller and to work off of the work already done to build a brighter future for Georgia. To learn more about the Miller Institute Foundation, visit