It was the last of three memorials for Miller, who died Friday at the age of 86. He was honored at a ceremony in his hometown of Young Harris on Monday, and George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton each eulogized Miller Tuesday at an Atlanta church.
Former President James Carter reflects on the life of former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller.
Those services were emotional, but tinged with humor. Carter quipped about his "off and on" friendship with his sometimes-rival. And Bush joked about Miller's high approval rating, saying "take it from me, that's not typical for a politician."
The Wednesday service felt more formal. It was held in the Rotunda under tight security - Georgia State Patrol officers cordoned off parts of the building - and soft sobs could be heard when a bugler played “Taps” from a balcony.
“In these sort of occasions, you like to tell funny stories and anecdotes about what happened. With Zell Miller, there weren’t many funny times – it was all business,” said Perdue. “If you were summoned to the second floor” – where the governor has his office – “you better be ready.”
That happened to Perdue once when, as a state senator, he shifted money from a budget proposal that would have benefited the Savannah ports. Miller was furious.
“I got called by the governor … that money got put back in as you might imagine.”
The Capitol Rotunda was crowded with dignitaries who wanted to give Miller a last sendoff. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Sens. Sam Nunn and Max Cleland were there. So were former aides and advisers to Miller. Dozens of others in the quiet halls of the statehouse craned their necks to take in the ceremony.
At the ceremony’s end, Miller’s wife Shirley and his son led a long procession out of the Capitol and into waiting cars, accompanied by music from a bagpipe. His remains were whisked to Cumming, where the family held one final service - this one, in private.
Some back at the Capitol were left struggling for words.
Said Perdue: “What do you say about the man who gave Georgia hope?”
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