Winter, Gov. William F.

Gov. Winter

Born in 1923 in Grenada, Mississippi, William F. Winter served in the armed forces in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a BA from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and an LL.B. in 1949. He has since been awarded over five honorary degrees. His credentials within the academic community are long standing: Jamie Whitten Professor of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi School of Law (Fall 1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (Spring 1989); Fellow, Institute of Politics, Harvard University (1985) and President, Ole Miss Alumni Association (1978). He continues to practice law with the Jackson, MS, firm of Watkins Ludlum Winter & Stennis, P.A. which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in 2005.

William Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education while he was the fifty-eighth governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged enjoys. In a substantial way, Governor Winter's accomplishments were honored in 1997 when President Bill Clinton initiated "One America," an unprecedented national conversation on race. Winter served on the board of One America, helping to bring the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. President Bill Clinton has called Winter a "great champion of civil rights." Positive changes stem from great leadership, and William Winter is one of many guiding lights for Mississippi and America.

In 2002 on his 80th birthday, the Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi was renamed the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in his honor. On May 12, 2008, Governor Winter was honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Click here to read his acceptance speech.

Videos of or referencing Gov. William Winter:

The videos can also be viewed here.


"About Us." William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. U of Mississippi. http://www.winterinstitute.org/pages/aboutus.htm.

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Smith Robertson Museum

Named for successful barber Smith Robertson, Jackson's first African American alderman, this 1894 structure was renovated in the late 1920s and was Jackson's first public school for African Americans. The school was closed in 1971 during public school desegregation. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and reopened through the efforts of Dr. Jessie Mosley and Dr. Alferdteen Harrison in 1984 as a museum to interpret the history of African American Mississippians. Its collection includes artifacts related to civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Aaron Henry, James Meredith, Mrs. Clarie Collins Harvey, and others. The African American author Richard Wright (1908-1960), who wrote Native Son and Black Boy, attended Smith Robertson School from 1923 to 1925.

Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is dedicated to increasing public understanding and awareness of the historical experiences and cultural expressions of people of African descent. Annual events include "The Taste of African American Art, Music and Cuisine" and "The Festival of Christmas Trees".


"Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County"produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

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Freedom Rides

Date of Event: May-November 1961

The Freedom Rides began in Washington DC on May 4, 1961, with thirteen Freedom Riders (7 black, 6 white) from CORE who aimed to travel by bus through the South in order to bring attention to the ongoing segregation of public transportation–despite a Supreme Court ruling saying it was illegal. The final destination was to be New Orleans. On the buses, black Freedom Riders would sit in the front and white Freedom Riders would sit in the back. The ride was mostly quiet through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, but things became violent in Alabama and Mississippi. On the way from Atlanta to Birmingham, one of the buses was firebombed outside of Anniston, Alabama. The other bus pulled into Birmingham where the Freedom Riders were met with a white mob and brutally beaten. When the bus company refused to continue driving the Freedom Riders, the original 13 flew to New Orleans for their own safety. On May 20th, 21 new Freedom Riders from SNCC were allowed to continue the ride, supposedly guaranteed their safety by Governor Patterson of Alabama. When they arrived in Montgomery, however, state officials withdrew, and the Freedom Riders were greeted by a white mob again. The Freedom Riders were horribly beaten again. At this point, the Federal Government became involved.

On May 24, twenty-seven Freedom Riders continued the ride from Montgomery to Mississippi. The National Guard protected the buses until they arrived in Jackson, where the Riders were systematically arrested and hauled off once they disembarked the bus. These first Freedom Riders were tried and convicted the next day, then sent to Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. After this first group, several other Freedom Rides were organized, all converging in Jackson, MS, where the Freedom Riders were arrested. According to Eyes on the Prize, “[M]ore than 300 Freedom Riders traveled through the Deep South in an effort to integrate according to the Supreme Court ruling” (159). They attempted to overfill the prisons with Freedom Riders, and more and more riders were taken to Parchman where they were held in maximum security and kept under horrible conditions in an attempt to break their spirits. Instead, many Freedom Riders emerged more committed to the cause. As a result of the Freedom Rides, the Interstate Commerce Commission created new policies demanding that all public transportation be desegregated, and this went into effect on November 1, 1961.

To explore the University of Mississippi’s Freedom Riders archive of video interviews conducted at the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides in 2001, visit their website at http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/archives/freedom_riders.php.

See also: Former Site of Trailways Busway Station and Parchman.

Videos referring to the Freedom Rides:

The Children Shall Lead documentary focuses on the Freedom Rides and Freedom Riders’ experiences. 

The documentary may also be viewed here.

An album of Freedom Rides video clips and oral histories exists here


Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford, MS: Oxford UP, 2006.

Williams, Juan. “Down Freedom’s Main Line.” Eyes on the Prize: America‚Äôs Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. New York: Penguin, 1987.

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The Tougaloo Nine

In 1961, nine African American students who were members of the Tougaloo NAACP Youth Council participated in Mississippi’s first civil rights “read-in”at the whites-only Jackson Municipal Public Library. On March 27, 1961, the Tougaloo Nine, four females and five males, entered the segregated main branch of the municipal library in search of source material for a class assignment. When the students took seats and began reading, a library staff member called the police. After refusing orders by the police chief to leave the library, the Tougaloo Nine were arrested. The read-in drew support from students at Jackson and Tougaloo colleges as well as Millsaps, a predominantly White college in Jackson. The Tougaloo Nine were charged and convicted of breach-of-peace. Each of them was fined $100 and given a 30-day suspended sentence.


“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

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