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William F. Winter and the New Mississippi - A Biography

William F. Winter and the New Mississippi

A Biography

By Charles C. Bolton
Series: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography

Hardcover : 9781617037870, 368 pages, 30 b&w photographs, September 2013

The life story of the Mississippi governor known for his fight for education and racial reconciliation


For more than six decades, William F. Winter (1923–2020) was one of the most recognizable public figures in Mississippi. His political career spanned the 1940s through the early 1980s, from his initial foray into Mississippi politics as James Eastland's driver during his 1942 campaign for the United States Senate, as state legislator, as state tax collector, as state treasurer, and as lieutenant governor. Winter served as governor of the state of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984.

A voice of reason and compromise during the tumultuous civil rights battles, Winter represented the earliest embodiment of the white moderate politicians who emerged throughout the “New South.” His leadership played a pivotal role in ushering in the New Mississippi—a society that moved beyond the racial caste system that had defined life in the state for almost a century after emancipation. In many ways, Winter's story over nine decades was also the story of the evolution of Mississippi in the second half of the twentieth century.

Winter remained active in public life after retiring from politics following an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Thad Cochran in 1984. He worked with a variety of organizations to champion issues that were central to his vision of how to advance the interests of his native state and the South as a whole. Improving the economy, upgrading the educational system, and facilitating racial reconciliation were goals he pursued with passion. The first biography of this pivotal figure, William F. Winter and the New Mississippi traces his life and influences from boyhood days in Grenada County, through his service in World War II, and through his long career serving Mississippi.


"Charles C. Bolton's excellent biography of Mississippi Governor William F. Winter reflects another approach to understanding that turbulent period [of the Civil Rights Movement] in American history. . . . Through the lens of Winter's career, the reader learns about the transformation of Mississippi politics as the electorate expanded to include African Americans. This definitive biography not only exhausts the written record, as seen in Winter's official papers, those of his contemporaries, and newspaper accounts, but also makes full use of sixty-one oral interviews—some forty-one Bolton conducted himself."

- Glenn T. Eskew, The Journal of Southern History