2008 Profile in Courage Award recipient Governor William Winter with Caroline Kennedy, May 12, 2008.

Background

As Governor of Mississippi in the early 1980’s, William Winter called the state legislature into special session to pass a landmark education reform proposal aimed at bringing uniform quality and racial tolerance to public education in Mississippi. Winter's Education Reform Act of 1982 was among the most significant pieces of legislation of its kind ever passed; among other reforms, it mandated statewide public kindergarten, compulsory school attendance, higher standards for teacher and student performance, and the creation of a lay state board of education. But the measure was hotly contested, and had been twice defeated before Winter led its passage just before Christmas, 1982. Less than two years later, Winter ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate. However, he continued to serve as a champion of public education, saying “the right to receive an adequate education is one of the most basic civil rights of all.” In 1997, Winter was appointed to President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race, and in 2005, he helped to lead Gulf Coast recovery efforts following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. For a lifetime of distinguished and courageous public service, and for his unwavering commitment to justice for all the people of his beloved Mississippi, William Winter is honored with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.