Former MS Governor Dies

Former Mississippi Gov. William Waller Sr., who parlayed a campaign against the power brokers of the state’s capital city to win his second race for governor, has died. He was 85.

Waller’s law office said he died Wednesday, but declined to release other details. Waller died at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, where he had been admitted to the hospital on Tuesday night.

Waller ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1967 but turned things around in 1971, when he rallied against the “Capitol Street” gang that was supporting his opponent. Waller went on to win the general election over civil rights leader Charles Evers, who ran as an independent.

Waller was governor from 1972-76 – a time when Mississippi governors were limited to one term.

Waller also served as district attorney in Hinds County, twice prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith – unsuccessfully – for the slaying of Medgar Evers.

In 1973, Waller vetoed funding for a segregationist watchdog agency, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.

Former Gov. William Winter, who was the lieutenant governor during Waller’s administration, said he was saddened to hear a longtime contemporary had died. Winter said Waller was a friend and a successful governor who tried to do what he thought was best for Mississippi.

“He contributed much to the progress of Mississippi. We are all indebted to him for his leadership,” Winter said. “Bill Waller was forthright. He was frank, candid. He spoke his opinions in a way that didn’t always please people, but he called it just like he saw it.”

Funeral arrangements were pending.