Gov. William F. Winter passed away on Dec. 18, 2020. He served as Mississippi’s 58th governor from 1980 – 1984. Winter, a Democrat, championed public education, historical preservation, and racial reconciliation. His legacy includes the Education Reform Act of 1982, the Two Mississippi Museums, and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
In honor of his passing, we present episode MSM 568, first broadcast the week of April 30, 2018. We will return with new episodes on January 11, 2021.
Former Governor William Winter was first elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1947. In this episode, he remembers how the verdict in Brown versus the Board of Education solidified opposition to desegregation throughout the South. Gov. Winter was running for State Treasurer in 1963 when he learned of the assassination of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers. He recalls being shocked by the news and even more shocked by the reaction of a respected church elder.
In 1997, Gov. Winter was appointed to President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race. He reflects on his work with the Board and the things that are important to most Americans.
Today, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation supports harmony and wholeness among all Mississippians. He explains how each of us have a role to play and why it’s so important.
In March 2008, Governor Winter was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for his work in advancing education and racial reconciliation.
The Mississippi Moments Decades Series continues counting down to the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2021. This week we hear from Aino Driegert’s oral history recorded on January 12, 1973. It would the first of seven interviews documenting the story of Finnish immigrants who came to Mississippi beginning 1899. They settled on the Gulf Coast in a small community named for a nearby orange grove. The name was changed to Laine after the first Finnish settler in the area, Gideon Laine, who encouraged other Finns to come. After the Southern Paper Company opened a mill there in 1912, the name was changed to Kreole. Today it is part of Moss Point.
In the early days, the group had to deal such difficulties as hostile locals, who would terrorize them with night rides, firing into the air and yelling “Yankees go home.” The children were also teased as “foreigners” until they learned to speak English. But soon the hardworking Finns proved their worth and were accepted as part of the community, learning to fit in while keeping their cultural traditions and Lutheran faith intact.
1973 – Aino Driegert was born in Orange Grove, Missisippi in 1902. In this episode, she discusses why her parents left Finland and her father’s love for America. As the daughter of Finnish immigrants, Driegert started school before she could speak English. She recalls how her family struggled to become part of the Gulf Coast community in those early days.
The Gulf Coast Finnish Community worked to maintain their cultural heritage and traditions. Driegert describes various social gatherings such as communal bathing in the family sauna. According to Driegert, even though the children of their community have scattered across the country, they still consider the Gulf Coast home. She reflects with pride on the character of the Finnish people.
PHOTO: Joanne Anderson, Gulflive.com
The Mississippi Moments Decades Series continues counting down to the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2021.
Al Key and his brother Fred developed a passion for aviation while in their teens and worked hard to make their dreams of flying a reality. They started their own flying service and took over as managers of the Meridian airport in the early 1930s. When the city decided to close the airport in 1935, Al and Fred decided to promote Meridian as an aeronautical hub by breaking the world record for longest time sent in non-stop flight. They succeeded on their third attempt, remaining aloft for over 27 days. The no-spill nozzle they helped develop for mid-air refueling is still used by the US Air Force.
In 1939, Al helped form the Mississippi Air National Guard and became a full time military pilot in 1940. He was commanding a squadron of B-17Cs when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He and Fred made several suggestions for armament modifications for US bombers that were adopted by the manufacturers. Their work landed them positions with the 8th Air Force Operational Engineering Section and Al became a Chief Liaison Officer with the British on designing new types of bombs.
Al retired as a colonel from the US Air Force in 1960 and served two terms as mayor of Meridian.
1973 – Al Key grew up on his family’s Kemper County farm in the 1910s. He describes being inspired to pursue a career in aviation when three biplanes planes landed in their pasture.
While managing the Meridian Airport in the 1930s, Al and Fred Key joined the newly formed Mississippi Air National Guard. Al Key recalls how their jobs as B-17 pilots changed after Pearl Harbor. During WWII, Al and Fred Key commanded bomber squadrons on submarine patrols and combat missions. Al Key explains how their suggestions for bomber designs made the planes less vulnerable.
While serving with the 8th Air Force Operational Engineering Section, Al Key worked with the British to develop a massive bunker-busting bomb known as the “Disney bomb.” He discusses how it was used to destroy German concrete-reenforced submarine pens.