patsy has read

- A special award has been created in their names.

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON - Longtime friends Jack Reed and William Winter were honored Monday night for their life's work of championing public education.

The Mississippi Association of Partners in Education honored Winter, a former governor, and Reed of Tupelo, the first chairman of the state Board of Education, during a tribute dinner. Phil Hardwick, Partners in Education president, also announced the creation of the Winter-Reed Award that will be given annually to outstanding education supporters.

"Collectively, I think it is immeasurable what they have done for this state," said state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds.

The sentiment was echoed by many during the Jackson banquet filled with nostalgia, humor - particularly of the self-deprecating variety by the two honorees - and continued passion for public education -- particularly by the two honorees.

Reed said, "Now is not the time to stop and look back with pride and satisfaction. Now is the time to rededicate ourselves to the future, the future of our state, the future of our families."

Reed said the best way to do that is by continuing to improve Mississippi's education system. Many spoke of how Reed, a Tupelo businessman, and Winter, a Grenada attorney and politician, worked to improve education at a time when it was not fashionable, primarily because of the hostility caused by racial integration.

Julian Prince, former Tupelo school superintendent, said Reed "came forward in a time of trouble and said the right thing and did the right thing to support public education."

Former Secretary of State Dick Molpus described Reed as "the conscience of the business community."

After being one of the leaders in the business community supporting the Tupelo school system during integration in the 1960s, Reed was tapped by then-Gov. Winter in the 1980s to chair a committee to study possible reforms in the state's education system.

That effort led to passage of the Education Reform Act of 1982, which is credited as being a watershed in improving the state's education system and its economic status.

One of the results of Winter's reform movement was public kindergarten. Another was the creation of the nine-member state Board of Education to replace a three-member board made up of statewide elected officials. That move was credited with taking politics out of the operation of the schools and putting in charge a board focused on education improvement.

Winter selected Reed as a member of the board and he was elected by fellow members as the first chair.

Molpus, a former Winter staff member, said the governor's Education Reform Act was more than just legislation.

"It was a watershed moment in Mississippi history," he said. "It was the first time our state came across racial lines, across class lines and our democracy worked."

Andy Mullins, now an executive assistant to the University of Mississippi chancellor and another former Winter staff member, said the then-governor showed tremendous courage by recommending tax hikes to support his Education Reform Act when the the Legislature said it would not pass it without a stream a revenue.

"He knew he would be looked at as a tax spending politician and probably damage any future politicial aspirations," Mullins said. "In thought, word and deed William Winter has come down on the side of children.

Winter, like Reed an octogenarian, talked about the future. The former governor gave an impassioned speech to the crowd not to wane in its support of public education.

In recent years Winter and Reed have toured the state advocating full funding of education.

Contact Daily Journal Jackson Bureau reporter Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus