William Lowe "Bill" Waller, Sr. (October 21, 1926 – November 30, 2011) was an American politician. A Democrat, Waller served as the Governor of Mississippi from 1972 to 1976. During his military service he attained the rank of sergeant and was offered a commission in the Counter Intelligence Corps, but he declined being discharged on November 30, 1953.
He returned to Jackson, Mississippi to active Army Reserve duty under Colonel Purser Hewitt, and resumed his legal career.〔Waller, Bill (2007). Straight Ahead: The Memoirs of a Mississippi Governor. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge Press (1st edition). p. 34; ISBN 1-934193-04-6.〕
As a local prosecutor, he unsuccessfully prosecuted Byron De La Beckwith in the murder of civil rights advocate Medgar Evers (the first two murder trials of De La Beckwith both in 1964 ended in hung juries and subsequently because De La Beckwith was never acquitted in these trials, he was later eligible to be prosecuted again). In 1994, De La Beckwith was found guilty of the murder. In 1971, Waller defeated Lieutenant Governor Charles L. Sullivan in the Democratic primary run-off. His main opponent in the general election was Evers' brother, James Charles Evers, then the mayor of Fayette, who ran as an independent. Waller handily prevailed, 601,222 (77 percent) to Evers' 172,762 (22.1 percent).
Waller is credited with winning elections without using racially charged or racially offensive rhetoric. He organized working class white voters and African American voters separately and usually did not merge their election efforts until it was too late in the election cycle for internal conflicts to disrupt the campaign. Litigation in the Southern Mississippi federal court and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans stripped the Regular Democrats of Mississippi of their official status and their 25 seats in the 1972 Democratic National Convention.〔Gordon, Charles B. "Regular Demos May Appeal to Fifth Circuit" Jackson Daily News. July 6, 1972. pp. 1A and 12A.〕 Prior to a national party policy conference in December 1974, the Loyalist and Regular Democratic Party factions united when the subject and Aaron Henry were elected as co-chairmen of the Mississippi delegation to the Kansas City conference.〔The Associated Press. "Democrats Recognize Two Factions". Jackson Daily News. June 7, 1974. pp. 1A and 20A.〕
Waller effectively shut-down the segregationist Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission by vetoing its appropriation while he was governor. He appointed numerous non-whites to positions in state government. After leaving office, Waller lost the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 1978 and for governor again in 1987. He practiced law in Jackson for several years.
On November 30, 2011, Waller died at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson of heart failure after being admitted the previous night. He was 85.
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