Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who advised Miller’s 1990 campaign, repeated five words throughout his tribute: “Zell Miller changed my life.”
He recalled how Miller helped convince Clinton to hire him and James Carville for his 1992 presidential run. He recounted Miller’s close relationship with Mickey Mantle and his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. And he lamented the challenge of writing speeches for the honey-tongued wordsmith.
“Zell would use rhymes like an Appalachian rapper,” said Begala, invoking one of Miller’s most known quotes: “I’m southern born, and southern bred, and when I die, I’ll be southern dead.”
The night closed with former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, another vanquished Miller opponent in that 1990 race.
“Zell Miller changed my life because he beat the daylights out of me,” he said, adding that the two had an unwritten pact not to go negative on each other in the Democratic primary battle.
“He was praising me,” said Young, “and taking my voters and making them love him.”
It was almost 9 p.m. and Donald Trump’s first Capitol Hill address was about to begin. But before the crowd left, Young had one final piece of advice for the group of lawmakers and policymakers who had crowded into the Georgia World Congress Center ballroom.
“If the rest of the world can learn some of the lessons we learned from each other,” he said, “I don’t think we would have to worry about the future.”