976: William F. Winter and the New Mississippi by Charles C. Bolton

by Gerard


976.2063092: Bolton, Charles C. William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: A Biography. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2013. 270 pp. ISBN 978-1-6170-3787-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 970: History of North America
  • 976: History of the South Central United States
  • 976.2: Mississippi
  • 976.206: 1865 to present
  • 976.2063: 1945-1999
  • +092: Biography

Charles Bolton’s William F. Winter and the New Mississippi looks at the life and times of William F. Winter, governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984 and supporter of a racially-integrated South. He was a proto-typical “honest” politician who seemed to legitimately care about the welfare of all Mississippians and not just those who looked like himself. He moved through the standard ladder of local politics, from State representative to State Treasurer to Lieutenant Governor to the Governorship, but it did not come without obstacles and heartbreak. As a politician during the 70s, he suffered the backlash of the public’s reaction to the Nixon scandal: he was considered as untrustworthy as everyone else. Nevertheless, he persevered and tried to change the nation’s image of Mississippi.

For many decades, Mississippi was seen as the lone holdout in a nation that was trying to become whole again after the Civil War. The Jim Crow “Dark Ages” may have dissipated elsewhere, but Mississippi had to be dragged into the post-Civil Right Act era. William Winter was a large part of its eventual re-integration. He was a sea of calm in torrent of racial tensions and tried to defuse potentially disastrous situations with rhetoric rather than riotous behavior. His brand of politics was a gentle change from the previous era of thumpers, yellers, and muckrakers.

For the most part, Bolton’s research is diverse and balanced, but one of the problems of a biography of a still-living person is one of appearance. Is the whole truth in there, or has the subject exercised some level of control over the content? Can we completely trust the text? Winter is still working as a lawyer, trying with reason, compassion, and cooperation to slowly better the lives of Mississippians, and Bolton openly states that he had a hand in crafting the story, but ultimately ironing out discrepancies in various accounts was left to the author. Unfortunately, the tale isn’t terribly exciting as it catalogs events and laws that Winter had a part in; he did good deeds, but those were mainly limited to delivering a vote when necessary and dutifully serving his state. If you’re interested in post-War Southern politics, then here’s one for you.