Since 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom award has honored distinguished individuals who have made great global and national impact. These men and women are lauded for their work in the struggle for civil and human rights. Among this year’s honorees is The Honorable William Winter, Mississippi ’44, former Mississippi governor & advocate for public education and racial equality. Themed “And Justice for All,” the Freedom Award will be presented October 20, 2016 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, followed by the Gala Celebration at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
The Honorable William Winter is most well known for his role in leading the charge for publicly funded primary education while he was the fifty-eighth governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. An Emmy-winning 2015 documentary, “The Toughest Job,” tells the story. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged. In 1997, President Bill Clinton initiated “One America,” an unprecedented national conversation on race. Governor Winter served on the board of One America, helping to bring the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. The success of One America at Mississippi’s flagship university, spawned the institute that carries his legacy today, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. In 2008, Governor Winter was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. He continues to practice law in Jackson, MS.