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Mississippians Weigh Impact of Former Governor William Waller

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Dec 2011 02:03pm | comments

Many Mississippians are trying to measure the legacy of former Governor William Waller now that he has been laid to rest. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that those who attended his funeral hail Waller as a transformative figure in Mississippi history.

Mississippians filed through the capitol Saturday to view the body of Former Governor William Waller, who died last week at 85 years old.

Many in the crowd highlight Waller's progressiveness on racial issues, leading the first civil rights era murder prosecution as a district attorney and ending many segregationist practices as Governor.

Allen Halliburton, one of Waller's executive assistants during his term, says Waller made an effort to include African-Americans in his administration.

"He was color-blind. To him, and our whole team, we were all not caught up in all that stuff. He would talk about it in the most positive sense," Halliburton said.

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove says one of Waller's overlooked achievements is his effort to improve higher education.

"His legacy as being governor, to me, will also be tied to the university system. making all of our eight major colleges at the time university. And the inclusion of all the people of Mississippi," Musgrove said.

Even 10-year old Maggie Waller, one of his 14 grand children, believes her grandfather leaves a path for her to follow.

"People tell me that I have a good legacy. (reporter: how do you think you are going to carry on his legacy?) Tell me kids and grand kids about it and keep it going through the family," Waller said.

More than 1-thousand people attended the funeral at First Baptist Church in Jackson

During his eulogy, University of Mississippi history professor emeritus David Sansing explained that Waller also leaves a physical legacy, because he pushed for the renovation of the 1842 Governor's mansion in downtown Jackson.

"Whenever you pass the Governor's Mansion, remember that without Bill Waller and his lovely wife Carol, there might be a hotel on that historic site," Sansing said.

Sansing says Waller will be remembered as a Governor who was a leader in a wide range of social and governmental areas.



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