Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, wrote this piece remembering Gov. Winter for helping transform Mississippi’s rigidly segregated public education system and tirelessly working for civil rights.
Mississippi’s former Gov. William Winter, who died on Dec. 18, 2020, helped transform Mississippi’s rigidly segregated public education system. He ran for office promising to focus on education and kept his promise. His signature accomplishment was a law that improved the futures of Mississippi’s children — especially Black children who had been harmed for decades by a separate and profoundly unequal education system. When he took office in 1980, Mississippi was the only state with no compulsory public education requirement, a result of Mississippi’s state legislature’s racist actions after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling sought to desegregate public schools.