Concept

Prentiss Walker

Summary
Prentiss Lafayette Walker (August 23, 1917 – June 5, 1998) was an American farmer, businessman, and politician from Mississippi. A staunch segregationist, in 1964 he became the first Republican to be elected to the United States House of Representatives from Mississippi during the twentieth century. Walker was born in Taylorsville, Mississippi. He attended public schools in Taylorsville, Mize, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. In 1936, he attended Mississippi College in Clinton. During World War II, he served in the US Army in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Then, he returned to his previous work as a chicken farmer in Smith County and became president of Walker Egg Farms, Inc., based in Mize. From 1937 to 1963, he was the owner of Walker's Supermarket. In 1960, Walker served on the executive committee of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission under Governor Ross Barnett. In 1964, Walker was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, which met in San Francisco, California, and he ran as a Republican in , in the central eastern part of the state. He unseated 11-term incumbent W. Arthur Winstead by some 7,000 votes, an 11% margin, the first Republican breakthrough in Mississippi since Elza Jeffords served a term in Congress from 1883 to 1885. Walker's victory was made possible by two factors. The first was white Mississippians' anger at the national Democratic Party's support for civil rights, which pushed many registered Democrats to vote for Barry Goldwater, who carried Mississippi in the 1964 presidential election with 87 percent of the vote. The second was widespread suppression of African Americans' right to vote. Only 6.7 percent of eligible Black Mississippians were registered to vote in 1964. In Walker's Congressional district, Goldwater won many of the counties with greater than ninety percent of the vote; two, Holmes and Noxubee, gave him a staggering 96.6 percent, tied for his best showing in the nation, and one which has never since been equalled by any presidential candidate in any county nationwide.
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