|56th Governor of Mississippi|
January 18, 1972 – January 20, 1976
|Preceded by||John Bell Williams|
|Succeeded by||Cliff Finch|
|Born||William Lowe Waller
October 21, 1926
Lafayette County, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||November 30, 2011
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
|Resting place||Jessamine Cemetery
|Spouse(s)||Carroll Overton (19??-2011; his death)|
|Children||William L. Waller Jr.|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1951–1953|
He served in the United States Army's Counterintelligence Corps during the Korean War in 1951, 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. He served as District Attorney of Hinds County, Mississippi, from 1959 to 1967.
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).
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. 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.
Waller effectively shut-down 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.
Governor Waller was survived by his wife, former Mississippi First Lady Ava Carroll Overton Waller (died October 28, 2014), and their son, William L. Waller Jr., Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court (since 2009). Mrs. Waller, known as "Carroll Waller", died at the Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, Mississippi from Alzheimer's disease.
- "Governor William Lowe Waller". National Governors Association.
- 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.
- Gordon, Charles B. "Regular Demos May Appeal to Fifth Circuit" Jackson Daily News. July 6, 1972. pp. 1A and 12A.
- The Associated Press. "Democrats Recognize Two Factions". Jackson Daily News. June 7, 1974. pp. 1A and 20A.
- "Former Gov. Bill Waller Dies". The Clarion-Ledger. November 30, 2011.
- "Former Miss. Gov. Bill Waller has died". Daily World. November 30, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Notice of death of Ava Waller, widow of Governor William Waller, msnewsnow.com; accessed November 8, 2014.
John Bell Williams
|Governor of Mississippi
January 18, 1972–January 20, 1976