Former First Lady Elise Winter passes away at 95

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Mississippi’s former First Lady Elise Varner Winter passed away Saturday at the age of 95. 

Winter’s passing comes after her husband & Mississippi’s 58th Governor, William, died back in December 2020. 

In an obituary published by Mississippi Today, Elise is credited with playing a key role in his administration (1980-84), especially in the overhaul of Mississippi’s public education system. 

“According to Dick Molpus of Jackson, then Winter’s director of federal-state programs, Mrs. Winter was a “quick strategic thinker,” who commanded the attention and respect of the governor and his all-male staff.

She played a principal role in the governor’s efforts to reform the state’s educational system. Along with Governor Winter and his senior aides, the first lady led a statewide grassroots campaign to win the support of the public. She made hundreds of speeches, visited scores of classrooms, and explained the governor’s plans to thousands of people who attended nine forums held across the state. Though soft spoken and gentle, she would directly engage confrontational individuals when necessary to refute mistaken ideas.”

This effort culminated with the passage of the Educational Reform Act in 1984 during a special session. 

Following their time in the governor’s mansion, Elise devoted much of her time to community service and in 2015, she was recognized at the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence Awards for her outstanding commitment to volunteer service.

The posted obituary states that memorial contributions may be made to Habitat for Humanity, Mississippi Capital Area, 615 Stonewall, Jackson, MS 39213.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Condolences to the Winter family may be mailed to P.O. Box 427, Jackson, MS 39205.

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