By Will Sullivan, Managing Editor
The Picayune Item
In response to a question from the audience, former Gov. William Winter said about today’s problems in Washington, “A lot of folks don’t allow any new idea to penetrate their minds.”
Winter, who spent more than 40 years in politics, referred to compromise as “the mother’s milk” of politics. He referred to the U.S. Constitution as ultimate example of compromise between slave owners in the South and those who opposed slavery.
The governor and Dr. Charles Bolton of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, were at Crosby Memorial Library for a book signing of Bolton’s biography of Gov. Winter. Bolton is the son of retired local medical doctor D.L. Bolton.
The two men discussed Bolton’s biography of Winter and Winter said he told Bolton after reading it, “You didn’t have to put all of that in there.” He went on to say that he thought the head of the history department at UNC, Greensboro, had done a really good job of telling the story. He told the crowd that gathered for the signing that while he may not enjoy all that Bolton had revealed about him, he was proud of the book.
A political raconteur, Winter recalled the campaign a former lieutenant governor of the state had run in. He said in one election, the former lieutenant governor, Herman Castile, a man with a less than righteous background faced this one candidate who was a “teetotaler” and bragged about his religious ways. Winter said Castile’s opponent said he was an “open book,” and Castile replied he was too, he would just like to “tear out two or three pages.”
Winter then said “I am proud to be associated with (Bolton and Picayune). Hopefully you will be interested in and enjoy reading Chuck Bolton’s book on William Winter.”
The governor also called out state Sen. Angela Burks Hill as the granddaughter of his friend Delos Burks, whom he said passed the “ultimate test of friendship” by voting for Winter over Walter Sillers for speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives. The late Sillers was once considered by many as the most powerful man in state government for the way he ran the House of Representatives in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Winter lost the race for speaker of the house and both he, Burks and others who supported him suffered in the internal politics of the house as a result. Bolton said of the book that he authored, “I hope this book will fill in the knowledge,” about Gov. Winter that many may not already know.
Bolton also thanked his former teacher, Shirley Stough, for getting him through Picayune Memorial High School. He also referred to two of Winter’s professors at the University of Mississippi that meant a great deal to him in forming his thoughts, H.B. Howerton and John Silver.
Bolton referred to Winter, as he does in the book, as the earliest of the moderate politicians in the South who came to represent the New South to seek the governorship of his state (1967), a race which he lost.
Winter would not win the governor’s seat until 1979 when he would begin changing the perception of the state by holding dinners at the governor’s mansion with notables from around the nation, including many who had left the state to go on to fame and fortune elsewhere, as Bolton detailed in his book and explained in his pre-signing remarks. The most notable accomplish of Winter’s governorship was his education reform act, which Bolton said in his remarks and detailed in his book, was accomplished by carrying the campaign to the people with “town meetings,” a practice that was rare before Winter began pushing the reform act.
The two men were at the library from 2 until 6 p.m. for the signing and people continued to come to meet the two men and buy books to be signed.