Former Governor William F. Winter, Champion of History, Dies
William F. Winter led the MDAH Board of Trustees for nearly fifty years, making an unmistakable impact on the department and the state.
Winter’s greatest legacy at MDAH was the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums in 2017. Winter helped convince state leaders of the need to build the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and he was instrumental in securing public and private funds for the project. MDAH director Katie Blount said, “These museums stand at the intersection of William Winter’s greatest passions—history, education, and racial justice. Generations of young people will come here to experience the stories that have shaped our state and nation.”
As Winter said during the opening ceremony, “These museums will challenge all of us to have a better understanding of where we have come from, and then inspire us to work harder to find our common ideals and goals. We will find that we have much more in common than what might appear to divide us.”
William Winter joined the MDAH board in 1957, was elected president in 1969, and served in that role until 2007. During that time, he oversaw the opening of the Eudora Welty House, the restoration of the Old Capitol, and the construction of a state-of-the-art archives building that the state legislature named for him.
Reuben V. Anderson, president of the MDAH Board of Trustees, recalled, “With his encouragement, MDAH strengthened its focus on African American history in Mississippi, acquiring significant collections of papers, mounting award-winning exhibits, and offering grants for the preservation of sites associated with African American history. Most notably, his close friendship with Myrlie Evers led to her decision to donate the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Collection to MDAH in 2002.”
According to the official obituary, memorial contributions can be made to the Foundation for Mississippi History. Gov. Winter was the leading force behind the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. His goal was for every Mississippi student to visit these museums at least once. Over the last years of his life, Winter helped raise funds to endow field trips to both museums for schools with limited resources. With his help the Foundation for Mississippi History has raised half of the $4 million endowment to make this possible. Contributions in Winter’s memory can be made to the William Winter Education Fund, FMH, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205.
A memorial service will be held once the dangers from COVID-19 abate and it is safe to gather for a service. Condolences to the Winter family may be mailed to P.O. Box 427, Jackson, MS 39205.