Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Bell Williams
John Bell Williams was born in Raymond, Mississippi. He graduated from Hinds Junior College in 1938, attended the University of Mississippi, and graduated from Jackson Law School in 1940. In November 1941, he enlisted with the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as pilot during World War II; however, he retired from active service after losing the lower part of his left arm after a bomber crash in 1944. Williams was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1946. He was the youngest U.S. Representative to be elected from Mississippi.
Williams advocated states' rights and segregation. He walked out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention and supported Strom Thurmond's Presidential campaign. After the Supreme Court made its Brown v. Board of Education ruling in May 1954, Williams made a speech on the House floor branding the day 'Black Monday'. Williams only supported the Democratic party's Presidential campaign in 1952. He supported unpledged Democratic electors in 1956 and 1960. Williams endorsed Barry Goldwater for President in 1964 and helped raise funds for Goldwater in Mississippi.
Due to his endorsement and fundraising for Goldwater, the Democratic Party stripped Williams of his seniority.
In 1967, Williams returned to Mississippi and ran for Governor. The field of candidates was large, including one former Governor (Ross Barnett) and two future Governors (William Winter and William Waller). In the primary, Williams claimed that former Governor Ross Barnett made a secret deal with the Kennedys and he finished second to Winter. In the runoff, Williams defeated Winter by 61,000 votes. In the general election, Williams defeated his opponent Rubel Phillips by almost 182,000 votes.
During his term as Governor, Mississippi experienced the desegregation of its school system due to a Federal court order. Williams, despite his background as a strong segregationist, refused to defy the court order.
After his term, Williams resumed his law practice, which he continued until his death.
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