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‘Mississippi has lost a giant’: William Winter leaves behind an impactful legacy

William Winter
William Winter(William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation/Associated Press)
Updated: Dec. 19, 2020 at 12:31 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s former governor, William Winter, leaves behind a impactful legacy as people across the state react to the news of his death on Saturday.

He died Friday night at the age of 97.

Winter will be remembered for pushing Mississippi lawmakers to enact the Education Reform Act of 1982, serving as co-chairman of a national commission on racial reconciliation created by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and encouraging the change of the Mississippi flag in 2000 and 2001.

He was also instrumental in the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson.

The impact of his death is being felt all across the state:

Governor Tate Reeves, “Elee and I are deeply saddened by the loss of former Gov. William Winter. He truly loved his state and his country. And the people of Mississippi loved him back. He will be missed by all of us.”

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, “Few people have the distinction of the admiration by all of his fellow citizens, the vision and ability to lead them in matters of public policy, and the willingness to devote their own life to the betterment of others. We mourn the passing of former Governor William Winter.”

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, “Mississippi has lost a giant, and my family has lost a friend and neighbor. Another courageous member of the greatest generation joins the great cloud of witnesses.”

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, “Today, Mississippi mourns the loss of former Gov. William Winter. He will be remembered for his dedicated service and commitment to Mississippi and our nation. Praying for his family.”

U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson,” I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Governor William F. Winter. Mississippi has lost one of its greatest ambassadors. His work on earth speaks for itself. Rest in peace.”

Former President Bill Clinton, “With the passing of Governor William F. Winter, Mississippi has lost one of its greatest champions of equality, reconciliation, and progress; and I have lost a friend, an inspiration, and one of the finest people I’ve ever known.”

Read the full statement here.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch, ”Governor William Winter spent a lifetime serving the people of Mississippi. He will be remembered for his many significant policy decisions and his love for this State. My prayers are with his family.”

Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, “William Winter, best Governor Mississippi ever had (1980-84), & a beacon for equality, inclusion, ethics & education has died. Mississippi & USA so much better because of his life & service.”

Mississippi Department of Education, “Mississippi’s education community mourns the loss of former Gov. William Winter, whose work changed the course of public education in our state. He fought to bring equity to education through the Education Reform Act of 1982, which set high standards for students, teachers and schools and established free public kindergarten for all children.”

The University of Mississipi, “The University of Mississippi mourns the loss of Gov. William Winter, a pillar of racial reconciliation and champion for Mississippi, who passed away on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.”

Millsap’s College President Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, “The Millsaps College family is saddened to hear of the death of Governor William Winter, and grateful for the opportunities we had to learn from him. We were proud to bestow an honorary doctor of law degree on Governor Winter in 1983. He and Elise were supporters of Millsaps, and we will strive to live up to the faith and confidence they had in us. May his memory continue to guide us—and all of Mississippi—in the years to come.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, “Governor Winter was a visionary whose commitment to education and racial reconciliation positively changed the course of this state. He was a leader who stood by his moral convictions in the face of much adversity, and by so doing, provided an example of courageous leadership that is sorely lacking in today’s political environment. I am deeply saddened by his passing and consider myself honored to have known him. May God comfort and keep his family during these difficult times.”

State Representative David Blount, “Gov. William Winter, who died last night, set the standard for all Mississippi public officials to follow. Mississippi’s greatest statesman.”

State Senator Brice Wiggins, “RIP. Example of what one committed person can do affect change. Politically, we don’t always have to agree but the respect has been earned. A life well lived. #msleg

Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, “Today we honor the life of former Mississippi Gov. William Winter. A true statesman, Gov. Winter championed some of the greatest education reform the state of Mississippi has seen. We’re forever grateful for his service. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winter family.”

Democratic National Comittee Member Jacqueline Amos, “The news of Governor Winter’s passing is almost more than we can bear as we end this challenging and difficult year. When Mississippi most needed a light to guide us out of the darkness, it turned to William Winter. He taught us to love one another, to make the most of our time in public service, and to place the highest value on education as the means of lifting people out of poverty and despair. Although he is gone, his legacy will live on in all Mississippians and especially in all Mississippi Democrats searching for a ray of light in the darkness.”

Mississippi Democratic Party, “Mississippi has lost a great statesman. We send our condolences to the Winter family.”

Mississippi Republic Party Chairman Frank Bordeaux, “On behalf of the @MSGOP, I offer my sympathies on the passing of former Gov. William Winter. There is no question Gov. Winter dedicated his life to service and championed many causes with passion. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

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