|58th Governor of Mississippi|
January 22, 1980 – January 10, 1984
|Preceded by||Cliff Finch|
|Succeeded by||William Allain|
|25th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi|
January 18, 1972 – January 20, 1976
|Preceded by||Charles Sullivan|
|Succeeded by||Evelyn Gandy|
|Treasurer of Mississippi|
January 21, 1964 – January 16, 1968
|Preceded by||Evelyn Gandy|
|Succeeded by||Evelyn Gandy|
William Forrest Winter
February 21, 1923
Grenada, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||December 18, 2020 (aged 97)|
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
|Education||University of Mississippi, Oxford (BA, LLB)|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1945–1957|
|Unit||Mississippi Army National Guard|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
William Forrest Winter (February 21, 1923 – December 18, 2020) was an American attorney and politician. He served as the 58th governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. A Democrat, he was 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 to improve state education in more than 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.:232
Winter served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Philippines. He was elected to the state legislature in 1947 while still in law school. He also served again during the Korean War, receiving a hardship discharge in 1951 after his father had a heart attack and his mother needed him on their family farm. After the war, he served in the Mississippi National Guard with the rank of major, until 1957.
Winter was born in Grenada, Mississippi, the son of William Aylmer and Inez (Parker) Winter. He attended local public schools for his basic education, and was a graduate of the University of Mississippi. As an undergraduate, he was an active member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. As a junior class student, Winter was elected president of the Hermean Literary Society; Phi Eta Sigma, a scholarly fraternity; and the International Relations Club.:32 After serving in World War II, he returned to graduate school. He graduated from Ole Miss law school, where he served as Editor of the Mississippi Law Journal.
Winter graduated first in his officers' training class at Fort Benning, Georgia and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was assigned to serve as an officer in "one of the two African-American infantry training regiments in the Army".:3–4 At the time, the armed forces were still segregated and white officers were assigned to lead black troops. 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.:25
During the Korean War, Winter was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; he received a hardship discharge in December 1951, soon after his father suffered a heart attack. 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.:35
Early political career
Winter 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. In his early days as a representative, he was appointed as a Trustee of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Winter continued to serve on this agency board throughout his public and private life. In 1955 Winter, encouraged by his friend, Governor James P. Coleman, launched a bid to unseat Speaker of the House Walter Sillers Jr. and replace him, the first attempt to unseat an incumbent speaker since 1928. After Sillers offered to guide Coleman's legislative program through the House, Coleman advised Winter that he could not publicly support him and urged him to concede. Winter and his supporters decided to press on with their campaign, and in the vote for the speakership he lost, earning 40 votes in comparison to 94 votes for Sillers. Three months later Tax Collector of the State of Mississippi Nellah Massey Bailey unexpectedly died. Coleman summoned Winter from his desk on the House floor to his office and offered him the job, knowing that it would provide him with a high-paying salary and give him a platform from which he could make future bids for statewide office. Winter accepted, and the appointment was announced two days later.
During his term as Lieutenant Governor, Winter served as an ex officio member of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which was established by the legislature in 1956 to maintain segregation in the state. Its records remained sealed until 1998.
Although major national civil rights legislation was passed by Congress in 1964 and 1965, Winter ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1967 as a segregationist. He said he wanted to focus on "bread-and-butter issues, not the old emotional ones—not racial issues." He lost the bitterly contested race to John Bell Williams in the runoff for the primary. Because most African Americans (and Republicans) in the state had been disenfranchised since the turn of the century, the primary was the important competitive election. Winter was elected and served as Lieutenant Governor from 1972 to 1976.
1979 campaign and election
Winter sought and lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 1975 to Cliff Finch. The defeat left him convinced that his political career was over. Finch won the office of governor, but his time in office was marred by corruption scandals, and he was viewed with increasing unfavorability by Mississippians as his term approached its end.
In January 1979 Winter encountered a former aide who was assisting another candidate in that year's election and conducting polling. The aide asked if he could add Winter's name to statewide survey on persons who could be elected governor. Winter agreed, and the aide later called him to indicate that his chances in the 1979 gubernatorial election were favorable. After several months he decided to announce his candidacy, denouncing the "corruption and mismanagement" of Finch's administration and linking Finch's troubles with Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Gandy, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race at the time.
Winter was buoyed by his image as a moderate, professional, experienced public official which stood in sharp contrast to the public's perception of Finch's time in office as haphazard. Gandy's reputation was harmed by her association with Finch and the fact that she was a woman. Due to the latter factor, Winter's campaign organization attempted to craft an image of "toughness" for him, and released television commercials that showed him posing with tanks at Camp Shelby and firing a gun at a Mississippi Highway Patrol weapons range. Winter placed second in the first Democratic primary and thus entered a runoff election with Gandy, which he won with 57 percent of the vote.
In the general election Winter faced the Republican nominee, Gil Carmichael. Carmichael had lost the 1975 gubernatorial race to Finch and thought that his own moderate and professional image would help him. However, he had been harmed by a bitter Republican primary and in Winter had an opponent who exuded a similar public image but was more experienced in office. Winter won the general election by a margin of 149,568 votes, earning 61 percent of the total vote. He later recalled, "It was the easiest race I ever made."
Winter 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. During the senatorial contest, African-American support for Winter weakened. State Senator Henry Kirksey demanded Winter's support for major changes: to reduce the number of at-large municipal election seats (which tended to disenfranchise minority voters), to open the records of the State Sovereignty Commission (which had been kept secret), to make further education reforms to ensure quality education for African Americans, and to end racial gerrymandering in local political districts.
Winter played a key role in maintaining Democratic Party unity during Mississippi's 1983 state elections and enlisted numerous candidates of similar attitude to him to run for office.
Later life and death
Winter returned to the practice of law after following his time in public office. He worked 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.
Winter was appointed co-chairman of President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race and served in that role from 1997 to 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. The Mississippi Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner fundraiser was renamed the Hamer-Winter Dinner in honor of Winter and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
Winter died at the age of 97 on December 18, 2020. Due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, a public funeral was not held. Winter was eulogized by his pastor, the Reverend Dr. Robert Wm “Rob” Lowry, in a New Years Day article in Mississippi Today. 
- 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.
- Raimo, John (December 23, 1985). Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1978-1983. Meckler Pub. ISBN 9780930466626 – via Google Books.
- Baskin, Bethany Lamar (1992). The Rise of William Forrest Winter (MA thesis). Mississippi State University.
- 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.
- Saggus, James (22 May 1977), "Sovereignty Files Sealed, Said Secure", Clarion Ledger (Jackson).
- Nash & Taggart 2009, pp. 86–87.
- Nash & Taggart 2009, p. 87.
- "Mississippi: A New Note or Two", TIME Magazine, August 4, 1967
- Nash & Taggart 2009, p. 88.
- Nash & Taggart 2009, p. 90.
- Nash & Taggart 2009, pp. 90–91.
- Nash & Taggart 2009, pp. 88–89, 91.
- Atkins, Joe (7 August 1984). "Seeds of black rebellion threaten Democrats, Winter", Jackson Daily News (Jackson).
- Nash & Taggart 2009, pp. 160–161.
- "William Winter". Jones Walker. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- "Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter dies at 97". NBC News.
- Melissa Alonso and Susannah Cullinane. "Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter dies at 97". CNN. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
- Mississippi Today https://mississippitoday.org/2020/12/19/william-winter-former-mississippi-governor-dies-at-97/?fbclid=IwAR2fTsN1CYOvnf5hYKhxG1adsBGw2UeHE53CZwcsLcGB8N6zPyr7o9PBa_k. Retrieved 19 December 2020. Missing or empty
- Murphy, Aundrea (December 19, 2020). "Former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter Dies at 97". WAPT. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
- Ganucheau, Adam; January 1, Mississippi Today; 2021 (2021-01-01). "'We will take it from here': Homily in memory of former Gov. William Winter". Mississippi Today. Retrieved 2021-01-08.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- 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.
- Nash, Jere; Taggart, Andy (2009). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2008. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781604733570.
- 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.
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|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Mississippi
Title next held byBootie Hunt
| Treasurer of Mississippi
| Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi|
| Governor of Mississippi