By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Former Mississippi Gov. William Waller Sr. is being remembered as a transformative figure who helped the state move beyond its segregationist politics during his tenure from 1972 to 1976.
More than 1,000 people attended Waller’s funeral Saturday at First Baptist Church in downtown Jackson.
Waller died Wednesday. He was 85.
In the late 1960s, Waller was Hinds County district attorney and twice unsuccessfully prosecuted Byron De La Beckwith in the 1963 slaying of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers. All-white juries deadlocked both times. In 1994, Beckwith was convicted by a mixed-race jury, with prosecutors using transcripts from Waller’s work.
Waller was the first Mississippi governor to appoint black people to top jobs in state government, and the Highway Patrol hired its first black troopers while he was in office.