Former 2-term Georgia governor, US Sen. Zell Miller dies at 86

2005 file photo of former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller (Photo by Barry Williams/Getty Images)

ATLANTA – 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.

Johnny Isakson, the Georgia Republican who succeeded Miller in the U.S. Senate says, "We need more people like him."

Isakson became close friends with Miller even though the two men were bitter rivals in their race for Georgia governor in 1990. Miller was victorious and later reached across party lines to appoint Isakson to chair the state school board.

Isakson praised Miller for maintaining an "independent streak that was governed by what he thought was right." Miller's stubborn independence could put him at odds with fellow Democrats. While serving in the Senate, Miller agreed to deliver a stirring keynote speech for then-President George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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."