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The Morris W. H. (Bill) Collins Speaker Series

Photo of William L. Waller, Sr.

October 4, 2007     Photos     Video

Waller served as Mississippi’s governor from 1972 to 1976, and his constructive leadership helped chart a new direction for Mississippi.

Waller, who was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, graduated from Oxford High School and earned his bachelor of arts degree at Memphis State University. After earning his law degree from the University of Mississippi, Waller established a law practice in Jackson. Waller was elected Hinds County District Attorney in 1959 and was re-elected in 1963. Waller’s most famous case as a prosecuting attorney was the Medgar Evers assassination. His vigorous prosecution of that case brought many commendations to the young district attorney and was often cited as an indication of the changing attitudes of Mississippi’s public officials.

After an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1967, Waller was elected to the state’s highest office on his second try. One of the most important accomplishments of Governor Waller’s administration was the separation of the tax collecting responsibilities from the law enforcement duties of the county sheriff. That change, which created two separate offices and allowed sheriffs to succeed themselves, improved the quality of law enforcement in Mississippi and professionalized the office of sheriff. Governor Waller also integrated the highway patrol and appointed blacks to boards, commissions, and other state agencies. For the first time in almost a century, blacks actively participated in affairs of state.

Governor Waller and his wife, the former Carroll Overton of Jackson, are grandparents of fourteen.

William Waller continues to practice law in Jackson, Mississippi, as head of the law firm Waller & Waller, where he is engaged in trial practice in both civil and criminal cases.