Former U.S. Sen. and Georgia Gov. Zell Miller died Friday morning at age 86, according to his family.
Bryan Miller said his grandfather died “peacefully surrounded by his family.”
Miller, a lifelong Democrat, was known for creating the state’s lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program.
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. He spent most of the term attacking his own party for veering away from mainstream values, and cast many of his votes with Republicans.
His family announced last year that he would no longer be making public appearances due to health problems.
Gov. Nathan Deal offered his condolences on Twitter.
“Georgia has lost a favorite son and a true statesman, and I’ve lost a dear friend,” Deal said in the statement.
“Zell’s legacy is unequaled and his accomplishments in public service are innumerable. Without question, our state and our people are better off because of him.”
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, highlighted Miller’s contributions to education in a statement offering his condolences.
“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,” Perdue said.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, whom Miller had appointed chairman of Georgia’s Board of Education in 1996, offered his condolences in a statement released Friday.
“Georgia has lost its finest public servant, and I have lost a great friend,” Isakson said. “I do not know of anyone who impacted the lives of Georgians more than Zell.”
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle called serving under Miller “one of the great honors of my time in public service” in a statement issued Friday.
Miller’s family has requested that donations be made to the Miller Institute Foundation in his memory.
The Associated Press and Kaitlyn Lewis contributed to this report.