Monday, May 04, 2009

Early Oral Histories

When Bob Short started doing the Reflections on Georgia Politics
program, his idea was to invite Georgia's political elite, for casual
conversation in front of audiences at Young Harris. Naturally, Zell
Miller, who lives right across the road from the school and who Bob
has known most of his life, came to mind. The initial exchange began as follows:

BOB SHORT: Thank you, and welcome to another in our series of
reflections. I know that Zell Miller needs no introduction to this
group, so I will begin by asking this question: what shall I call you?
Senator? Governor? Lieutenant Governor? Professor? Or by your college nickname, “Zip?”

ZELL MILLER: I’m afraid there’s not much zip left, but...You left out
my -- one of my favorites. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren
call me “Pa.”

SHORT: Incidentally, how did you get that nickname “Zip?”

MILLER: Well, I don’t know, exactly. I think it was my speed on the
baseball field, baseball diamonds around here. Or maybe it’s that I
got out of class so fast. I think it’s that - but I don’t know.

SHORT: Well, I presume I may call you “Senator?”

MILLER: How about “friend?” We went to school here 55 years ago together.

SHORT: Did you have to say that? Well, friend Zell, you live just down
the street from this Young Harris campus, yet you seemed a bit
reluctant to participate in this forum. Care to tell us why?

MILLER: Well, that’s true. Because I’ve been on the playing field a
long, long time, and I have -- I want to get up in the stands and
watch what’s going on instead of being down there on the playing
field. I quit doing commentary for Fox News back in January because I just didn’t want to get into all of that. As many of you know -- or
some of you know -- this long political career I’ve had has had its
share of conflicts and controversy. You know, politics is a contact
sport, and I have got the skinned shins and bloody noses to show it.

Despite Zell Miller's initial reluctance, he warms to his hometown
crowd, and soon is in a talkative, and typically candid, mood. The
interview, which approaches two hours, is wonderful. Here we offer a
short excerpt of a story the Senator tells of his early days in
politics, when the roads of north Georgia were a hot political issue.
This excerpt features subtitles, since the video's audio track is
difficult to hear, demonstrating what we can do with some of the
poorer quality audiovisual resources that nonetheless hold important

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library

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