Bill Waller

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Bill Waller
Bill Waller official.jpg
56th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 18, 1972 – January 20, 1976
Lieutenant Bill Winter
Preceded by John Bell Williams
Succeeded by Cliff Finch
Personal details
William Lowe Waller

(1926-10-21)October 21, 1926
Lafayette County, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedNovember 30, 2011(2011-11-30) (aged 85)
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
Resting placeJessamine Cemetery
Ridgeland, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Democratic
( m. 1950)
Children5, including Bill
Education Memphis State University ( BS)
University of Mississippi School of Law ( LLB)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service1951–1953
Rank Sergeant
Battles/wars Korean War

William Lowe Waller Sr. (October 21, 1926 – November 30, 2011) was an American politician. A Democrat, Waller served as the Governor of Mississippi from 1972 to 1976. [1]

Early life

He served in the United States Army's Counterintelligence Corps during the Korean War in 1951, [1] attaining the rank of sergeant. He was offered a commission in the Corps, but he declined, being discharged on November 30, 1953. He returned to Jackson, Mississippi to active Army Reserve duty under Colonel Purser Hewitt, and resumed his legal career. [2] He served as District Attorney of Hinds County, Mississippi, from 1959 to 1967. [1]

Political career

As a local prosecutor, he unsuccessfully prosecuted Byron De La Beckwith in the murder of civil rights advocate Medgar Evers (the first two murder trials of De La Beckwith both in 1964 ended in hung juries and subsequently because De La Beckwith was never acquitted in these trials, he was later eligible to be prosecuted again). In 1994, De La Beckwith was found guilty of the murder. In 1971, Waller defeated Lieutenant Governor Charles L. Sullivan in the Democratic primary run-off. His main opponent in the general election was Evers' brother, James Charles Evers, then the mayor of Fayette, who ran as an independent. Waller handily prevailed, 601,222 (77 percent) to Evers' 172,762 (22.1 percent).[ citation needed]

Portrait of Waller

Waller is credited with winning elections without using racially charged or racially offensive rhetoric. He organized working class white voters and African American voters separately and usually did not merge their election efforts until it was too late in the election cycle for internal conflicts to disrupt the campaign. Litigation in the Southern Mississippi federal court and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans stripped the Regular Democrats of Mississippi of their official status and their 25 seats in the 1972 Democratic National Convention. [3] Prior to a national party policy conference in December 1974, the Loyalist and Regular Democratic Party factions united when the subject and Aaron Henry were elected as co-chairmen of the Mississippi delegation to the Kansas City conference. [4]

Waller controversially pardoned one of the men convicted of murdering Vernon Dahmer. This pardon was especially controversial because Waller had served as legal counsel for the convicted murderer prior to the pardon. [5]

Waller effectively closed the segregationist Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission by vetoing its appropriation while he was governor. He appointed numerous non-whites to positions in state government. After leaving office, Waller lost the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 1978 and for governor again in 1987. He practiced law in Jackson for several years.[ citation needed]


On November 30, 2011, Waller died at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson of heart failure after being admitted the previous night. He was 85. [6] [7]

Governor Waller was survived by his wife, former Mississippi First Lady Ava Carroll Overton Waller (died October 28, 2014), and their son, Bill Waller Jr., Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court (from 2009 to 2019). Mrs. Waller, known as "Carroll Waller", died at the Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, Mississippi from Alzheimer's disease. [8]


  1. ^ a b c "Governor William Lowe Waller". National Governors Association.
  2. ^ Waller, Bill (2007). Straight Ahead: The Memoirs of a Mississippi Governor. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press (1st edition). p. 34; ISBN  1-934193-04-6.
  3. ^ Gordon, Charles B. "Regular Demos May Appeal to Fifth Circuit" Jackson Daily News. July 6, 1972. pp. 1A and 12A.
  4. ^ The Associated Press. "Democrats Recognize Two Factions". Jackson Daily News. June 7, 1974. pp. 1A and 20A.
  5. ^ Reed, Roy (December 24, 1972). "Release of Klansman, Jailed for Killing Black Leader, Is Decried in Mississippi" – via
  6. ^ "Former Gov. Bill Waller Dies". The Clarion-Ledger. November 30, 2011.
  7. ^ "Former Miss. Gov. Bill Waller has died". Daily World. November 30, 2011.[ permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Notice of death of Ava Waller, widow of Governor William Waller Archived November 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 8, 2014.
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Bell Williams
Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Cliff Finch
Political offices
Preceded by
John Bell Williams
Governor of Mississippi
January 18, 1972–January 20, 1976
Succeeded by
Cliff Finch