Why We Came To Fondren

William and Elise Winter, Members since 1959

Elise and I moved to Jackson from Grenada in 1958. She had grown up in Senatobia and I in Grenada. We graduated from Ole Miss in 1948 and 1949 and married the following year in 1950. After a year in Washington where I was legislative assistant to Senator Stennis, we returned to Mississippi in 1952.
First elected to the legislature in 1947 while a law student, I was re-elected in 1951. I began the practice of law in Grenada and also operated the family farm following the death of my father in 1952. In 1956 I was appointed State Tax Collector by Governor J. P. Coleman. Elise, our two daughters, and I came to Jackson to live full-time in 1958.

Elise grew up as a member of the Senatobia Methodist Church but joined the First Presbyterian Church of Grenada when we married. When we moved to Jackson, we attended Briarwood Presbyterian Church for a short time, but in the fall of 1959, we moved to Fondren Presbyterian Church.

The main motivation behind our coming to Fondren was the inspiring leadership of the Reverend Moody McDill. After hearing him preach just one sermon, we found in him and in the spiritual atmosphere that he had helped to create at Fondren the answer to our spiritual search.

Some fifty-five years later, we still feel that way about this church, which served as a haven of tolerance and openness in the turbulent racial and theological conflicts of the 1960s. Fondren was one of the first—if not the very first—Protestant churches in Jackson to open its doors to black worshipers and has continued to be a center of religious tolerance and unity. It has been in the forefront of the efforts to recognize the role of women in the leadership of the church. Elise was the first woman to serve as an elder at Fondren and perhaps the first woman elder in the state.

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