Landmarks & Legacies: Zell Miller Conference Center

A public servant, best-selling author, educator, military veteran, and Fox News contributor, Zell Miller was a man of many hats.

On the cusp of the two-year anniversary (March 23, 2018) of his death, this installment of Landmarks & Legacies looks at the origins of the Zell Miller Conference Center at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC).

In short, the conference center is part of the facility’s tradition of naming spaces after prominent Georgians – including the building’s name itself, which is officially designated as the George L. Smith, II Georgia World Congress Center, honoring the Georgia legislature’s long-tenured Speaker of the House.

Housed on Level 3 of the GWCC’s Building B, two floors directly below the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom (named after another long-running Speaker of the House), the Zell Miller Conference Center features seven meeting rooms (B301-B307) totaling more than 16,000 square feet of usable space, plus a lobby and concession area.

In early 1985 as the GWCC was completing Phase II expansion, the Georgia General Assembly directed the GWCCA to designate the convention center’s new corporate conference center in honor of Miller, who was Lt. Governor at the time.

“Whereas, the Georgia World Congress Center has expanded its facilities to include a professional corporate conference center providing meeting facilities for an enlarged program; and Whereas, Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller has always appreciated the role of the Georgia World Congress Center in attracting new corporate interests to Atlanta and the State of Georgia; and Whereas Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller is recognized as a pioneer among lieutenant governors of the nation with respect to his participation in international trade missions,” reads an excerpt of House Resolution No. 50.

GWCCA records show that signage had to be amended to accommodate the legislative directive. Already installed over the entryway to the new conference center, the block-letter sign simply stated, “Conference Center,” and a change order request dated Feb. 15, 1985 asked “to add additional letters to this sign to incorporate ‘ZELL MILLER’ above this sign.”

It wouldn’t be the last time the conference center’s signage honoring Miller had to be changed.

Dedication of the Zell Miller Corporate Conference Center, according to official GWCCA correspondence, kicked off the festivities of the 1986 General Assembly Salute at the Congress Center. A bronze plaque, featuring Miller’s likeness, was created for the dedication of the conference center and the GWCCA reached out to the corporate community to help defray the costs.

“Naming the Corporate Conference Center in honor of Lt. Governor Miller is a fitting tribute to Zell’s dedication to economic growth and development, his promotion of corporate social responsibility and, in particular, his leadership in the development and expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center,” wrote Thomas M. Boller of Georgia Power Company, which contributed to the cause.

The plaque summarized the aforementioned resolution and stated in part, “Zell Miller has strongly supported the role of the Georgia World Congress Center in attracting new corporate interests to Atlanta and the State of Georgia.”

When Miller was elected as Governor of Georgia, a position he held from 1991-99, the verbiage on that plaque needed to be revised. And the replacement bas-relief features Miller without his ’80s-style thick-rimmed glasses. The new plaque was installed in 2000, and it currently resides directly under the conference center’s main signage.

After leaving the Governor’s office, Miller served as a U.S. Senator from 2000-2005, and rankled fellow Democrats when he supported President George W. Bush’s reelection and delivered a keynote address at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

In the late 2000s, Miller, a native of Young Harris, Ga., developed Parkinson’s Disease, and complications due to this illness ultimately claimed his life on March 23, 2018. He was 86.

A part of Zell Miller’s legacy lives on at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Landmarks & Legacies is an occasional unConventional blog series exploring the various identifying and distinctive physical features of the GWCCA campus.