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William Winter
58th Governor of Mississippi

In office
January 22, 1980 – January 10, 1984
Lieutenant Brad Dye
Preceded by Cliff Finch
Succeeded by William Allain
25th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi

In office
January 18, 1972 – January 20, 1976
Governor Bill Waller
Preceded by Charles Sullivan
Succeeded by Evelyn Gandy
Treasurer of Mississippi

In office
January 21, 1964 – January 16, 1968
Governor Paul Johnson
Preceded by Evelyn Gandy
Succeeded by Evelyn Gandy
Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives

In office
Personal details
Born February 21, 1923(1923-02-21) (age 98)
Grenada, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elise Varner
Children 3
Alma mater University of Mississippi, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1945-1948
Battles/wars World War II

William Forrest Winter (born February 21, 1923) is a retired American politician who served as the 58th Governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. A Democrat, he is known for his strong support of public education, freedom of information, racial reconciliation, and historic preservation. Winter is best remembered for the passage of the Mississippi Education Reform Act. The law was the first serious attempt at improving state education in over 20 years and established public kindergartens. The Winter administration also successfully rewrote the state public utilities law when the legislature passed the Public Utilities Reform Act.[1]:232


Winter at the University of Mississippi, c. 1949

He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and the Ole Miss law school, where he served as Editor of the Mississippi Law Journal. During his time at Ole Miss, he was an active member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. As a junior class student at Ole Miss, the subject was elected president of the Hermean Literary Society, the Phi Eta Sigma, a scholarly fraternity, and the International Relations Club.[1]:32

Military service[]

Upon graduating first in his class at Fort Benning, Georgia and receiving his commission as second lieutenant, he was sent to "one of the two African-American infantry training regiments in the Army".[2]:3–4 During World War II, Winter served in the United States Army infantry in the Philippines where he attained the rank of captain. On Luzon Island in the Philippines, Winter was Liaison Officer and Acting Assistant G-3 of the 86th Infantry Division.[3]:25

During the Korean War, Winter was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina until he received a hardship discharge in December 1951, soon after his father suffered a heart attack as his mother needed his assistance on the family farm. After the Korean War, Major Winter served in the Mississippi National Guard in the "Dixie Division" or 31st Infantry Division until his retirement in 1957.[3]:35


Winter first entered politics in 1947. While in law school, Winter was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He was subsequently re-elected in 1951 and 1955. He served as Tax Collector of the State of Mississippi as well as State Treasurer. Beginning as a Trustee of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in his early days as a representative, Winter served on this agency board and presided throughout his public and private life. Former law firm partner and Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto has replaced Winter as the Chairman of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees.[4] Winter also served as an ex officio member of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission during his term as Lieutenant Governor.

He ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1967 as a segregationist although one who wanted to focus on "bread-and-butter issues, not the old emotional ones—not racial issues."[5] He eventually lost the bitterly contested race in the runoff to John Bell Williams. He was then elected to and served as Lieutenant Governor from 1972 to 1976. He again lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 1975 to Cliff Finch. He won the nomination in 1979, having defeated Evelyn Gandy, the departing lieutenant governor, Jim Herring, a later state Republican chairman, and several other intraparty opponents. Winter then handily defeated the Republican nominee Gil Carmichael of Meridian. He served as governor from 1980 to 1984. After finishing his term as governor, he ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate against the one-term Republican incumbent, Thad Cochran, who still holds the position. During the senatorial contest the African American support for Winter weakened due to state Senator Henry Kirksey's demands that changes be made to at-large municipal election seats, opening records of the Sovereignty Commission, further education reforms to ensure quality education for African Americans, and ending racial gerrymandering in local political districts.[6]


Winter currently practices law as Special Counsel in the Government Relations Practice Group of the law firm of Jones Walker of New Orleans, Louisiana, with offices in Jackson, Mississippi.[7]

He was a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race in 1997-1998. The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on the University of Mississippi's Oxford campus is named in his honor, as is the William F. Winter Professorship in the Department of History.

In March 2008, he was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for his work advancing education and racial reconciliation.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bolton, Charles C. (2013). William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: a biography. Jackson MS: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-61703-787-0. 
  2. Baskin, Bethany Lamar (1992). The Rise of William Forrest Winter (MA thesis). Mississippi State University. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gibson, Nola Kay Pearson (1993). A Biography of Governor William F. Winter With Emphasis on his Contributions to Improve Education in Mississippi (PhD thesis). University of Mississippi. 
  4. Saggus, James (22 May 1977) "Sovereignty Files Sealed, Said Secure" Clarion Ledger (Jackson).
  5. Mississippi: A New Note or Two, TIME Magazine, August 4, 1967
  6. Atkins, Joe (7 August 1984). "Seeds of black rebellion threaten Democrats, Winter" Jackson Daily News (Jackson).
  7. "William Winter". Jones Walker. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 

Further reading[]

  • Bolton, Charles C. (2013). William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: a biography. Jackson MS: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-61703-787-0. 
  • Winter, William F. "William F. Winter." In Growing Up In Mississippi, edited by Judy H. Tucker and Charline R. McCord, 3-10. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.

External links[]

Political offices
Preceded by
Evelyn Gandy
Treasurer of Mississippi
January 21, 1964–January 16, 1968
Succeeded by
Evelyn Gandy
Preceded by
Charles Sullivan
Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
January 18, 1972–January 20, 1976
Preceded by
Cliff Finch
Governor of Mississippi
January 22, 1980–January 10, 1984
Succeeded by
William Allain

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