Former Miss. First Lady Carroll Waller dies at 87 - - Jackson, MS

Former Miss. First Lady Carroll Waller dies at 87

Former Mississippi First Lady Ava Carroll Overton Waller Source: Administrative Office of Courts Former Mississippi First Lady Ava Carroll Overton Waller Source: Administrative Office of Courts
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Former Mississippi First Lady, 87-year-old Ava Carroll Overton Waller of Jackson, died on Tuesday at Manhattan Nursing Home after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

According to the Administrative Office of Courts, her funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday at First Baptist Church, Jackson. 

Visitation will be in the Fellowship Hall of the church from 11 a.m. until the funeral service that day.

Carroll Waller was the widow of former Mississippi Governor William L. (Bill) Waller and they were married for 61 years. 

Governor Phil Bryant says, “Deborah and I are saddened to hear of the loss of former Mississippi First Lady Carroll Waller. There's a good possibility the Governor's Mansion would not exist now, if not for her dedicated restoration work. She was a wonderful First Lady and an example to all others who have followed her.”

The former Mississippi First Lady leaves a legacy of historic preservation. She spearheaded efforts to restore the Governor's Mansion. 

Carroll Waller and historian David Sansing co-wrote "The History of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion," which helped raise money to restore the 1842 home. The Wallers lived in the mansion only a few months after it reopened.

Carroll Waller also spearheaded efforts to have the Mansion designated a National Historical Landmark, which was the second executive residence in the nation so designated. 

She also provided leadership for the purchase and restoration of the historic Manship House in Jackson. For these projects, she received an Award of Merit from the Mississippi Historical Society in 1980. 

As First Lady, Carroll was also instrumental in securing passage of legislation which designated Mississippi's state animal as the white-tailed deer; a state fish, the large-mouthed bass; a state water mammal, the porpoise; a state sea shell, the oyster; and a state water fowl, the wood duck. At her request, a beautiful red rose known as the Mississippi Rose was hybridized for the state. 

The Carroll Waller Camellia was hybridized especially for her. 

These and native plants of distinction are part of the landscape of the Mansion grounds.

She gave leadership to the creation of a learning resources system in the Department of Education, including provisions for the evaluation of all children suspected of having learning disabilities. 

She served as National Library Week chairman and sponsored the Mississippi Library Commission's bicentennial project, the collecting of autographed books by Mississippi authors for the Mansion. 

According to the Administrative Office of Courts, she served as chairman for numerous organizations across the state. Her service included two five-year terms on the Mississippi Arts Commission, Keep Mississippi Beautiful Committee, Board of the Municipal Art Gallery, the Board of the Mississippi Historical Society, the Board of Bookfriends of the University Press, and Regent of the D.A.R. Rebecca Cravat Chapter of Jackson. She was a former member of the Board of the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission and the Board for Christian Conciliation Service.

Carroll Waller was born in McComb, Mississippi, on August 8, 1927, to the late Dr. Clayton Justice Overton and Edith Watkins Overton. 

She graduated from Central High School in Jackson, and from Mississippi College, with distinction.

She was an instructor at Belhaven College and a sales associate at the House of Overton until devoting her full-time attention to her growing family and the political career of her husband.

In 1974, she received the Centennial Award of Excellence from Blue Mountain College. 

Mississippi College awarded her the Service to Humanity Award in 1976, an Honorary Doctorate Degree in 1978, and the Order of the Golden Arrow in 1980.

Carroll was a third generation member of First Baptist Church, Jackson. 

It was there that she met her future husband. She was a member of the Hope and Joy Sunday School class for almost 60 years. 

She also served as President of the Women's Missionary Union and the Ava Burton Watkins Circle.

She is survived by four sons, including Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.; two sisters and 14 grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, former Governor Bill Waller, her beloved daughter, Gloria Joy Waller, and her brother, Clayton Justice Overton, Jr., M.D.

In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations to the Gloria Joy Waller Scholarship Fund at Mississippi College, P.O. Box 4005, Clinton, MS, 39058, or

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