From The Mississippi Link Newswire
JACKSON – Former Mississippi Governor William F. Winter has been awarded the 2012 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award. Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI in Mississippi, presented the award to Governor Winter during the Jackson Field Office All-Employee Conference on Dec. 7.
Since 1990, the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) has been a principal means by which the FBI has publicly recognized the achievements of individuals and organizations who have worked diligently to prevent crime, drug and gang violence, and to promote education in their community. Each of the FBI’s field offices selects one individual or organization each year to receive this award.
“On behalf of Director Robert S. Mueller III,” stated SAC McMullen, “the Jackson Field Office of the FBI is pleased to present the 2012 Director’s Community Leadership Award to Governor William F. Winter because of his strong support and leadership in the areas of public education, racial reconciliation, and historic preservation.”
Winter was nominated for the Jackson Field Office, FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for 2012 for his outstanding contributions in the areas of civil rights, education, and community service.
Winter served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mississippi (1943), and an LL.B. from the University of Mississippi School of Law (1949).
In 1964, following the murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and after several black churches in southwest Mississippi were bombed, Winter quietly joined an interracial gathering of civic and religious leaders to form a group known as the “Committee of Concern,” now known as the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference. That group raised $50,000 within six months and, by recruiting northern and western college students, had rebuilt six black churches. This episode is characteristic of the courage and quiet determination of Jackson’s choice for the Director’s Community Leadership Award.
Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education, specifically kindergarten, while he was governor of Mississippi. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges.
Throughout his long career as a public servant, Winter fought for those things he determined were “good for Mississippi” – racial reconciliation, educational reform, and preservation of Mississippi’s history, without allowing any of his remarks to be colored by racial or politically-correct undertones. Labeled a “racial moderate,” at a time when that was an unpopular political stance, Winter was instrumental in creating a more racially tolerant Mississippi by bringing together black and white members of the business, faith and political communities to work for the common good.
Through his personal example and quiet persuasion, he has been at the forefront of social change in Mississippi. In 2008, when the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum presented him its Profiles in Courage Award, Winter stated: “All of us must be willing to speak out against bigotry and intolerance and injustice. We must seek to find worth in every person. That is how we pay our dues for the privilege of living in a free society.”
Winter is also a recognized author and historian. The William Winter Professorship of History in the University of Mississippi’s history department, is an endowed professorship which was established in his honor. In 1996, the Mississippi Historical Society honored him for his lifelong dedication to the study and preservation of Mississippi history and, in 2003, the William F. Winter Archives and History Building was named in honor of his long service as president of the Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History.
Continuing in his efforts to preserve Mississippi’s history, Winter is presently working on an initiative to build a state civil rights museum in Jackson.