William Winter Institute Staff

Portia Ballard Espy
Executive Director

Portia Espy - Executive Directory - William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Portia Ballard Espy is the Executive Director at the Institute. She previously served as Chief Administrative Office for Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office and Assistant Director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative. She holds a B.A. from Southern University, Baton Rouge; an M.B.A from Loyola University, New Orleans; and she is currently a Ph.D. student in the Public Policy and Administration Program at Jackson State University.

Portia has an extensive background in Human Resources Management, Executive Coaching, Team Building, and Mediation. She considers herself a griot and enjoys collecting the data (through traditional and nontraditional means) that have become her family’s American story.

Email Portia Espy >>

 Vondaris “Von” Gordon
Youth Engagement Manager

Von Gordon - William Winter Institute for Racial ReconcilationVondaris “Von” Gordon is a native of Moorhead, MS, in Sunflower County. He joined the Institute to develop and coordinate youth programs as Youth Engagement Coordinator. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he was a student leader and helped organize the first Statewide Student Summit on Race. He served as a founding board member of the Winter Institute and the only student representative. 

Von has worked in the private sector in franchise and corporate multi-unit restaurant operations and in business development for one of Pepsi’s top franchise bottlers. Von is the married father of two, and he is passionate about equipping youth to build stronger communities through education, empowerment, and racial healing. He thinks the best salads in the world are the ones with no dressing.

Email Von Gordon >>

April Grayson
Community and Capacity-Building Director

April Grayson - William Winter Institute for Racial ReconcilationA native of Rolling Fork, MS, April was Documentary Educator at the Institute from 2005 through 2008. She has led community oral history and documentary projects in Philadelphia, McComb, Tallahatchie County, and other communities. 

Her oral history project on the integration of the University of Mississippi School of Law and Medical School, in conjunction with Kate Medley, won the Mississippi Historical Society’s Oral History award. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Film from San Francisco Art Institute. Her short films have shown in film festivals, galleries, and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and South America. As a teenager, she was an avid waterskier.

Email April Grayson >>

Jacqueline B. Martin
Community and Capacity Building Coordinator

Jacqueline B. Martin - William Winter Institute for Racial ReconcilationJacqueline B. Martin is a civil rights veteran from McComb, MS, and serves as the community liaison for the Civil Rights/Labor History curriculum development project at McComb School District. She has served as civil rights tour guide for high school and college students, as well as teachers and other interested citizens.

Jackie has organized many of McComb’s civil rights tours and commemorations, especially those honoring local civil rights veterans. She joined the Institute as a Community Building Manager and participates in intergenerational community work in Mississippi. She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Belhaven University and is a certified Training Professional through the WLPI at the University of Southern Mississippi. Jackie enjoys mystery novels and western movies.

Email Jackie Martin >>

Jennifer G. Heath
Community and Capacity Building Coordinator

Jennifer Heath - William Winter Institute

Jennifer G. Heath was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. The time spent in this area deeply shaped who she is as a resident of the state of Mississippi, the United States and the world.

Jennifer received her degree in social services from Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, and had an extended career in the the faith community. She has a background in early childhood education, spiritual development, and team building. Jennifer is passionate about allowing every person to have their worth and value appreciated and recognized. 

As a mother and community member she strives to make the world a better place. Jennifer is also an avid reader and “Law and Order” connoisseur.

Email Jennifer G. Heath >>

Jake McGraw
Policy and Civic Engagement
Lead

Jake McGraw - William Winter Institute for Racial ReconcilationJake McGraw is the coordinator for Rethink Mississippi and editor of rethinkms.org, a collaboration of emerging leaders in Mississippi to begin critical discussions about the state’s long-term issues. Jake has deep-seated passion for combining the power of ideas with community organizing methods. 

While studying public policy and economics at the University of Mississippi, Jake co-founded the campus integration initiative One Mississippi as well as a community empowerment organization in San Mateo, Belize. Jake also has significant experience working in both state and national politics. A native of Oxford, MS, Jake researched the history of progressive education policies in the South while attending a master’s program at “the other Oxford” in England. He returned home to join the Winter Institute in spring 2013. Jake is an avid golfer and squash player–a frequent source of ridicule among his colleagues.

Email Jake McGraw >>

Jeran Herbert
Policy and Civic Engagement
Project Coordinator

Jeran Herbert - William Winter InstituteJeran Herbert serves as the Project Coordinator for the William Winter Institute’s Policy & Civic Engagement team. He is a first-generation American, with roots hailing from the Eastern Caribbean, and holds a B.L.S and Master of Urban & Regional Planning from Alabama A&M University.

Having worked in fields ranging from geographic information systems to housing policy, Jeran has a depth of experience in both quantitative and qualitative research. He thrives in environments with a diverse range of stakeholders, with a goal to effectively develop and manage programs and initiatives

Email Jeran Herbert >>

Board of Directors

Bill Bynum
Board Chairman

Bill Bynum - Board Chairman - William Winter Institute

For more than three decades, Bill Bynum has worked to advance economic opportunity
for disenfranchised populations. He began his career in North Carolina by establishing nationally recognized programs at Self-Help and at the NC Rural Economic Development Center. In 1994, Bynum moved to Mississippi to become the founding CEO of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, and in 1995 organized Hope Community Credit Union.

Today, HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union and Hope Policy Institute), is a family of organizations that provides financial services; leverages resources; and engages in policy analysis to strengthen communities, build assets, and improve lives in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Since 1994, HOPE has generated more than $2.5 billion in financing that has benefitted more than one million people in one of the nation’s most impoverished regions.

Bynum serves on the boards of the Aspen Institute, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Prosperity Now, and William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. Bynum previously chaired the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Consumer Advisory Board and the Treasury Department’s Community Development Advisory Board, and served as a member of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.A recipient of the University of North Carolina Distinguished Alumnus Award, Bynum and HOPE have been honored with the John P. McNulty Prize (Aspen Global Leadership Network), Ned Gramlich Award for Responsible Finance (Opportunity Finance Network),Annie Vamper Award (National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions), Herb Wegner Award (National Credit Union Foundation), National Entrepreneur of the Year (Ernst & Young/Kauffman Foundation), Rural Hero Award (National Rural Assembly), Pete Crear Lifetime Achievement Award (African American Credit Union Coalition) and The Wall St. Journal/Met Life Foundation Financial Inclusion Challenge.

Camille Scales Young
Treasurer

Camille Young - Board Treasurer - William Winter InstituteCamille Young brings more than two decades of background in the practice of state and federal government affairs to Cornerstone’s Jackson, Mississippi office. Camille has deep relationships with elected officials, business leaders and community influencers across the state of Mississippi. With a wealth of issue expertise and robust local, state and national relationships, Camille helps clients navigate policies, create and drive effective advocacy campaigns, utilize business and development opportunities and craft successful public affairs efforts.

Prior to joining Cornerstone, Camille spent 10 years as a government affairs representative with one of the state’s leading law firms, Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, P.A. Before that, Camille spent five years at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation in several positions, including communications specialist, director of media relations and government relations specialist. In this role, she spent time on Capitol Hill establishing relationships and providing support for the agricultural community. She also held a position with the United States Department of Agriculture as an outreach and public affairs specialist.

In 2008, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tapped Camille to serve as a museum liaison for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum project that joined public and private sponsors to launch the venture that will honor Mississippi’s history in the Civil Rights Movement.

Camille is very involved in community activities like the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership Board of Directors, the Junior League of Jackson Sustainers Board of Directors, the Mississippi Power Company Board of Directors, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the Mississippi 4-H Foundation. She also was honored to serve as President of the Mississippi State University National Alumni Association in 2012-13.

Wilson Golden
Board Member

Wilson Golden - Board Member - William Winter InstituteWilson Golden, who has served as a director of the WWIRR since 2015, is a native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, and holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi.

His professional career included partnership in the Jackson law firm of Watkins Ludlam Winter and Stennis and service on the staffs of the Mississippi State Senate under Lt. Gov. William Winter, the US House of Representatives under Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy, and as a Clinton presidential appointee at the US Department of Transportation. He retired in 2014 as VP for Global Government Affairs in the Office of General Counsel at Xerox in Washington, DC.

Wilson has been active in a number of charitable and civic organizations and is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is the father of three children and four grandchildren and now lives in Gainesville, Georgia.

Annette Hollowell
Secretary

Eleanor Winter
Board Member

Eleanor Winter - Board of Directors - William Winter InstituteEleanor Winter serves as Senior Vice President of Special Projects for NCTA – The Internet & Television Association in Washington, D.C. Ms. Winter is responsible for CablePAC, the cable television industry’s political action committee. In this capacity, she organizes and coordinates fundraising events for federal candidates and Members of Congress. In addition, Ms. Winter advises NCTA member companies on their fundraising strategies.

Before joining NCTA, Ms. Winter worked for the public relations firm Cribben, Miller and Moses. The firm, with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, concentrated on political and corporate fundraising projects. Prior to that, Ms. Winter worked for Senator John Stennis from Mississippi and later for Senator Paul Simon from Illinois.

In 2015, Eleanor was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame. She currently serves on the Board of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. She has also served as a mentor for young men and women in the cable industry through the WICT mentorship program.

The Honorable William F. Winter, Chair Emeritus

Born in 1923 in Grenada, Mississippi, William F. Winter served in the armed forces in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a BA from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and an LL.B. in 1949. He has since been awarded over five honorary degrees.

His credentials within the academic community are long standing: Jamie Whitten Professor of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi School of Law (Fall 1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (Spring 1989); Fellow, Institute of Politics, Harvard University (1985) and President, Ole Miss Alumni Association (1978). He continues to practice law with the Jackson, MS, firm of Watkins Ludlum Winter & Stennis, P.A. which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in 2005.

William Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education while he was the fifty-eighth governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged enjoys. In a substantial way, Governor Winter’s accomplishments were honored in 1997 when President Bill Clinton initiated “One America,” an unprecedented national conversation on race. Winter served on the board of One America, helping to bring the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. President Bill Clinton has called Winter a “great champion of civil rights.” 

Positive changes stem from great leadership, and William Winter is one of many guiding lights for Mississippi and America. On May 12, 2008, Governor Winter was honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. 

Click here to read his acceptance speech.