Photo from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website.

Speakers included former President Bill Clinton, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson.

On Tuesday, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) hosted a Celebration of Life for former Governor William Winter and First Lady Elise Winter at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Katie Blount, MDAH Director
  • Spence Flatgard, MDAH Board President
  • The Honorable Haley Barbour, 63rd Governor of the State of Mississippi
  • The Honorable Reuben Anderson, Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice
  • The Honorable Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States


Winter served as Governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984 and had been previously elected to the Mississippi Legislature as well as to the offices of the State Tax Collector, State Treasurer, and Lieutenant Governor.

Winter’s term as Governor has been nationally recognized for the groundbreaking passage of education reform legislation. He later was appointed to President Bill Clinton’s National Advisory Board on Race. 

Winter helped to convince state leaders to build the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and was instrumental in securing public and private funds for the project. 

Elise Winter helped shepherd her husband’s key legislation as well as advocated for improving the living conditions of imprisoned people, worked to increase funding for state correctional institutions, and campaigned for the construction of a family visitor’s center at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchment and a separate prison for women in Pearl.

During the ceremony, Spence Flatgard, MDAH board president, announced the completion of the initial funding goal of the William and Elise Winter Education Endowment, a $5 million fund created to underwrite field trips for Mississippi’s schoolchildren.

“The purpose of this endowment is to ensure that all Mississippi students have the opportunity to experience the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “We are grateful to the many supporters who gave to this effort, which was spearheaded by Governor and Mrs. Winter. We are especially grateful to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which stepped up first with a generous gift. We are committed to continuing to build the William and Elise Winter Education Endowment, which will make a tremendous impact on future generations to come.”

Former President Bill Clinton (D) described William and Elise Winter as “remarkable” and “highly-intelligent, highly energetic, and openly ambitious, and as good as gold.”

“The minute I met Bill Winter,” said Clinton, “I never had a scintilla of doubt that whatever happened in our friendship, whatever happened in his life, I was with one of the most authentic people I would ever know.”

Clinton also shared some of his memories of the former Governor as well as quoted one of Winter’s speeches.

Following the ceremony, current and former Mississippi elected officials spoke with Y’all Politics about the legacy that the Winters have left behind.

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D) said that Winter’s legacy in Mississippi is that of doing what was right, not what was popular.

Former Governor Haley Barbour (R) described Winter as a leader in education and talked about how he helped get civil rights where we want them to be in Mississippi.

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann (R) said that Winter was able to move people to a common goal.

Watch the video clips to hear from those honoring the Winters today.