Winter celebrating 91st birthday at NLCC

Published 12:09 am Thursday, February 20, 2014

NATCHEZ — When William Winter turned 90 on Feb. 21, 2013, he was in Natchez for his annual role as Director of Proceedings for the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

“We wanted to celebrate his big birthday with him,” said Jim Barnett of Natchez, a longtime staff member of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and co-chairman of the NLCC.

“The party we gave was at Briarvue, overlooking the Mississippi River. A thunderstorm came up and drenched everyone. But people turned out in droves for the party. We had a huge crowd. People really admire and respect Gov. Winter. They wanted to help him celebrate.”

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This year, Winter will again be in Natchez for the NLCC, again as Director of Proceedings and again on his birthday.

Winter was previously saluted for his longtime leadership roles, including Governor of Mississippi 1980-84, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Mississippi Department of Archives and History for decades and service on President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race in 1997-98.

He was also cited for rewards he has received for his work with racial reconciliation and the advancement of education, including the naming of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi and for receiving the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

For all 25 years of the Celebration, Winter has served as Director of Proceedings.

“People say over and over, there is nothing like having Gov. Winter introduce you,” Barnett said.  “He is perfect in that role.

“We had to top last year, and we think we have.”

Plans to celebrate Winter’s 91st birthday include several free events on Friday, all at the Natchez Convention Center, 211 Main St.:

• The premiere of “The Toughest Job: William Winter’s Mississippi,” a 55-minute documentary produced by David Crews of Oxford and created by Andy Harper and Matthew Graves of the University of Mississippi, begins at 1:30 p.m.

• A birthday party featuring Winter’s favorite chocolate cake, along with cupcakes, punch, coffee and more, from 2:30 to 3 p.m.

• A book signing of a new biography of Winter by Charles C. Bolton, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, called “William F. Winter and the New Mississippi: A Biography,” starts at 4:30 p.m.

“We invite everyone to help us sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Gov. Winter and to wish him well,” Barnett said. “He is such a national treasure and such a great friend to Natchez.”