1971 Mississippi gubernatorial election
Flag of Mississippi (1894-1996).svg

← 1967 November 2, 1971 1975 →
Bill Waller.jpg
Charles Evers.jpg
Nominee Bill Waller Charles Evers
Party Democratic Independent
Popular vote 601,222 172,762
Percentage 77.0% 22.1%

1971 Mississippi gubernatorial election results map by county.svg
County results

Waller:      50-60%      60-70%      70-80%      80-90%      >90%

Evers:      40-50%      50-60%      60-70%

Governor before election

John Bell Williams

Elected Governor

Bill Waller

The 1971 Mississippi gubernatorial election took place on 2 November 1971 for the post of Governor of Mississippi. The incumbent governor, Democrat John Bell Williams, was ineligible due to term limits, a rule that was changed to two back-to-back terms in the 1980s.[1]

Democrat Bill Waller, the former District Attorney of Hinds County, was chosen as his party's nominee in a contested primary. Running as an independent, Mayor of Fayette Charles Evers became the first African-American candidate for Governor of Mississippi.[2]

Democratic primary

Mississippi Democratic Party primary, 1971[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Charles L. Sullivan 288,219 37.78
Democratic William L. Waller 227,424 29.81
Democratic James E. "Jimmy" Swan 128,946 16.90
Democratic Roy C. Adams 45,445 5.96
Democratic Ed Pittman 38,170 5.00
Democratic Marshall Perry 18,021 2.36
Democratic Andrew W. Sullivan 16,762 2.20

Democratic primary runoff

Mississippi Democratic Party Primary Runoff, August 24, 1971[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic William L. Waller 389,952 54.22
Democratic Charles L. Sullivan 329,236 45.78

Republican primary

No Republican primary was held.[4]

General election

Evers' campaign was supported by civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Mayor of New York John Lindsay.[5]

According to The New York Times, Waller ran a relatively moderate campaign. However, one report noted that Waller's campaign featured "racially ragged edges", such as airing radio commercials that played the song "Dixie" and receiving support from segregationist politicians like James Eastland.[6]

Following Waller's victory, Evers drove across town to a local TV station to congratulate him. A reporter later wrote that

Waller's aides learned Evers was in the building and tried to hustle the governor-elect out of the studio as soon as the interview ended. They were not quite quick enough. Surrounded by photographers, reporters, and television crews, Evers approached Waller's car just as it was about to pull out. Waller and his wife were in the back seat. "I just wanted to congratulate you," said Evers. "Whaddya say, Charlie?" boomed Waller. His wife leaned across with a stiff smile and shook the loser's hand. During the campaign Evers told reporters that his main purpose in running was to encourage registration of black voters.[7]


Mississippi gubernatorial election, 1971[4]
Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William L. Waller 601,222 77.02
Independent Charles Evers 172,762 22.13
Independent Charles L. Sullivan 6,653 0.85


  1. ^ "Gov.-elect Bryant's 8 appointments could impact college board". 22 November 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  2. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (2020-07-22). "Charles Evers, Businessman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 97". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  3. ^ "MS Governor – D Primary". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "MS Governor - D Runoff". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  5. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (2020-07-22). "Charles Evers, Businessman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 97". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  6. ^ Reed, Roy (1971-11-03). "Evers Is Defeated In Large Turnout In Mississippi Vote". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  7. ^ Powers, Thomas. "Letter from a Lost Campaign". Harper's Magazine (March 1972).