By the Advocate
Former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter has been named the 2009 recipient of the Emma K. Elzy Award.
Presented by the Mississippi Conference Commission on Religion and Race, the award recognizes individuals and organizations that have worked to achieve racial reconciliation in Mississippi.
Winter (bottom right) was cited for his efforts in founding the William F. Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation located at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Other award recipients recognized Thursday night at the inaugural Trans4mation Gala:
• Sybil Arant of Sunflower, the Harry Denman Evangelism Award
• Elbert R. Hilliard of Jackson, the Tobias Gibson Award
In 1997, President Bill Clinton inaugurated a national conversation on race. “One America: The President’s Initiative on Race” marked the first time a sitting president had called for such a dialogue without the catalyst of a major crisis. It suggested, on a federal level, the importance of dealing positively with race relations on a daily basis. Winter served on the board of One America.
Accepting the challenge to prod grass roots efforts, the University of Mississippi hosted the only deep-South public forum for One America. Preceded by dialogue groups representing ten constituency topics ranging from the arts to education to religion, the event highlighted elected delegates from each group. Sharing the insight and hopes of the more than 160 participants, the representatives crafted a frank yet civil discussion on one of our nation’s most difficult subjects.
The president’s staff hailed the UM experience as the single most successful of the entire Initiative year. That recognition encouraged the university to formalize its dialogue process with the creation of an institute to promote racial reconciliation and civic renewal.
Founded in 1999, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation builds more inclusive communities by promoting diversity and citizenship and by supporting projects that help communities solve local challenges.
Born in 1923 in Grenada, Winter served in the armed forces in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a BA from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and an LL.B. in 1949.
Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education while he was the 58th governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges. Clinton has called Winter a “great champion of civil rights.”
The Harry Denman Award is sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism and honors those who have extended the love of Christ to others. Arant has been active in spreading the gospel both in her home church Indianola First UMC and throughout Mississippi and the world.
For the past 16 years she has taught two weekly Bible classes for couples and women in the community. She also speaks to local groups about applying the Bible to daily living. She has made several mission trips to Honduras with her church and helped prepare teams for other trips.
She and her husband Turner Arant have been involved in the North Mississippi Walk to Emmaus community since its inception. They attended the first organizational meeting. Sybil Turner helped organize the Christian camp which has provided facilities for the walks over the past 25 years. She also developed the food menu for the walks and served as registrar. She has trained more than 50 lay directors for the walks. As of January, she has been the principal leader to witness 225 walks for men and women, 83 Chrysalis Walks and 26 Crossroads Walks.
The Tobias Gibson Award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to preserving Methodist history in Mississippi.
Hilliard retired in 2004 after 31 years as director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He continues to serve as secretary-treasurer of the Mississippi Historical Society and director emeritus of the Department of Archives and History.
A member of Madison United Methodist, Hilliard is a member of the Pearl River Church historic council and has been actively involved in the preservation of the historic church in Madison County. He serves as historian of Madison UMC and has been a faithful contributor of historic materials from his home church to the J.B. Cain Archives of Mississippi Methodism at Millsaps College over the past 20 years.