Mudslinging, Polygraphs, and Mississippi Politics

Bitter gubernatorial races are nothing new to Mississippi.  In 1983, it was taken for granted that State Attorney General William A. "Bill" Allain would win the governorship with ease.  He defeated former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy for the Democratic nomination, and led his Republican rival, Leon Bramlett, by more than 20 points just 2 weeks before the election.

Bill Allain was divorced, and Bramlett had been laying the groundwork for weeks that Allain could not be a good governor because he didn’t have a family and couldn’t understand the problems of children.  Bramlett’s wife campaigned around the state saying that she was running for first lady, and she was unopposed. 

Then, salacious sexual allegations were leveled against Allain by three of Bramlett’s largest contributors and an adviser to his campaign.  The men charged that Allain frequently paid for sexual relations with black, male prostitutes over several years.  A private detective, formerly with the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, helped spread rumors that Allain had sexual relations with three cross-dressers.  The accusers presented sworn statements and results of polygraph tests from the men as proof. 

William Winter, the outgoing governor, had already endorsed Bill Allain and the Democratic Party was reeling.  Winter sent word to Allain that he thought he should have a polygraph test, and that he should call for a Mississippi Highway Patrol investigation.  Allain began a counteroffensive and announced that he had taken and passed a polygraph test administered by a New Orleans firm that that had no interest in the outcome of the race. 

Ultimately, Bill Allain easily swept the election for the 59th governor of Mississippi, carrying seventy-four of the state’s eighty-two counties.  In 1984, the plot to smear Allain was exposed on ABC’s “20/20” and the prostitutes revealed they had never met Allain and had been paid for their testimony.

While the ban on gubernatorial succession in the state was lifted in 1986, and Allain was the first Mississippi governor in modern times who could have sought back-to-back terms, he opted not to run again. He went back into private law practice after his term as governor. Bill Allain passed away on December 2, 2013.

Bill Allain’s polygraph results from November 2, 1983 can be found in the Charles A. Marx Papers (M313). Marx served as a highway patrolman, attorney for the Highway Patrol, Assistant Attorney General, Executive Assistant to Governor William A. "Bill" Allain, and Chairman of the State Tax Commission. In addition, he served as an instructor of law enforcement and criminal justice at The University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Gulf Park campuses).  His collection contains a wealth of information on law and law enforcement in Mississippi, particularly during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and early 1970s.

For more information about this item or collection, contact Carla Carlson at or 601.266.4348.


Results of a Polygraph Exam Conducted on William A. Allain -- November 2, 1983, Charles A. Marx Papers, M313, Box 33, Folder 9, Historical Manuscripts, Special Collections, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

“Mississippi Race Roiled by Homosexuality Charge” New York Times (National Edition) Nov. 2, 1983, Section A, Page 20.

“Mississippi Democrat Surmounts Sex Charge” New York Times (National Edition) Nov. 9, 1983, Section A, Page 23.

Howard, John. Men Like That: A Southern Queer History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Nash, Jere. Mississippi Politics: the Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.

Winter, Elise Varner. Once in a Lifetime: Reflections of a Mississippi First Lady. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015.

Text by Carla Carlson, Assistant Curator of Historical Manuscripts.