By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – One of Mississippi’s most-esteemed former governors told a packed house at the Lee County Library on Wednesday what late author Willie Morris meant to the state.
William Winter was the keynote speaker of this year’s “Tupelo Reads!” event, which encourages members from throughout the community to read and discuss the same book. This year’s selection was Morris’s “My Dog Skip.”
Winter, who was governor from 1980 to 84, is a former neighbor of Morris, who died in 1999. He spoke of Morris’s antics and his zest for life.
“More than anyone else of our generation, he caused us to look in ourselves to discover the joy and aspiration to sustain us through the good times of life,” Winter said.
Morris also promoted the state, Winter said, with his great writing, his support of education and his relationships with everyone he met.
“I like to remember him for the qualities he brought to us, civility, decency, kindness and the understanding that we all can relate to each other,” Winter said.
Winter, who is known for his support for public education and racial reconciliation, also answered questions from the audience. He credited friends and associates for helping him see beyond the segregated society he encountered as a child and also said that his parents taught him to treat everyone with civility.
Winter said that politics have become too polarized and that the only way to solve problems is for those from different viewpoints to get together and have open discussions.
“I will go anywhere to hear William Winter speak,” said Janet Krohn, who traveled from Corinth to hear the remarks. “He is the quintessential gentleman, scholar and humanitarian.”
Cynthia Colburn of Tupelo said Winter really personalized Morris’ life.
“We sometimes lift writers above everyone else, but he spoke about his friend in a way that makes him like a real friend to each of us,” she said.