Former governor shares stories, speeches at book-signing|[03/12/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 12, 2007

In remarks at Lorelei Books Sunday, former Mississippi Gov. William Winter recalled a 1963 speech he made in Vicksburg on &#8220the problems of Southern politics.”

It came almost seven months after James Meredith, on Oct. 1, 1962, was allowed to take his first class at the University of Mississippi – a landmark in the push in the South for desegregation.

&#8220This is no time to be drinking from the wells of bitterness and recrimination,” Winter said during the speech, made at All Saints College, which later became All Saints’ Episcopal School. &#8220The political leader who can successfully turn his people from a preoccupation with the race issue and all of the supercharged emotions of anxiety, fear and hate which that issue suggests, will, in my opinion, have served well the cause of Southern statesmanship and helped to put his region on the road to a happier and better day.”

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Winter, a Democrat who was governor from 1980 until 1984, has been called a &#8220great champion of civil rights” by former President Bill Clinton.

On Sunday, Winter said his speech at All Saints &#8220was in the middle of the Civil Rights struggle … months after the James Meredith fiasco at Ole Miss,” and that his remarks were &#8220about our role to bring people together rather than segregate.”

&#8220And I got a little flack from that speech,” he said. &#8220But it still reads pretty good 44 years after I made it.”

That speech and a compilation of the former governor’s personal memoirs, other speeches and television commentaries and articles are in his book, &#8220The Measure of Our Days.” He signed copies Sunday at Lorelei as dozens of people filed in to meet him.

One of those people was Beechwood Elementary School Principal Jack Grogan, a 32-year veteran in education.

&#8220William Winter was always supporting education in Mississippi,” he said. &#8220He always worked to see changes in Mississippi education. I wanted to thank him for his interest in education and get his good book to read during the Spring holidays.”

Winter was influential in the passage of the 1982 Mississippi Education Reform Act, which established public kindergartens and made a first attempt in more than 20 years at improving public education.

Ray Chambers of Mobile, Ala., said he came to Vicksburg for the sole purpose of meeting Winter.

&#8220I saw in the paper that the governor was going to be here,” he said. &#8220I was glad to see he was for changes in Mississippi, and I’m looking forward to what he has to say in the book.”

In 1997, Winter was on the board of One America, an initiative by then-president Clinton to begin a national conversation on race. Two years later, the University of Mississippi, Winter’s alma mater, founded the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which promotes diversity and citizenship, and supports projects to solve local challenges.

At 84, Winter practices law at Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis in Jackson.

Winter wrote all of his own speeches and his book, edited by Andrew P. Mullins Jr., presents samples of his ideas from the early 1960s until now. &#8220The Measure of Our Days” gives a glimpse of the challenges Winter faced. His writings touch on race, religion, education, book banning, community building, civil liberties, urban and agricultural development, family, literature, environmental conservation and history.

Winter, a native of Grenada, was an infantryman in World War II and a representative in the Mississippi House from 1947 until 1959. He was also state tax collector for five years, until the position was eliminated in 1964. After an unsuccessful race for governor in 1967, he was elected lieutenant governor in 1971.