Wilmer Mizell

Wilmer David Mizell
Wilmer Mizell.jpg
Mizell during his time in Congress
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by Nick Galifianakis
Succeeded by Stephen L. Neal
Personal details
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy Mizell (1st wife, died), Ruth Mizell
Wilmer David Mizell
Wilmer Mizell - St. Louis Cardinals - 1957.jpg
Born: (1930-08-13)August 13, 1930
Vinegar Bend, Alabama
Died: February 21, 1999(1999-02-21) (aged 68)
Kerrville, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 22, 1952, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
July 25, 1962, for the New York Mets
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 90–88
Earned run average 3.85
Strikeouts 918
Career highlights and awards

Wilmer David "Vinegar Bend" Mizell (August 13, 1930 – February 21, 1999) was a professional American athlete, playing as a pitcher for 14 years, and later a politician. After his sports career, he was elected and served three terms as a Republican U.S. congressman from North Carolina from 1969 to 1975. He represented North Carolina's 5th congressional district, including Winston-Salem. Prior to that, he had performed as a left-handed pitcher in major league baseball.

Early life

Mizell was born near Vinegar Bend, Alabama, and was later nicknamed for his birthplace. He was reared in nearby Leakesville, Mississippi, where he graduated from high school in 1949.

Baseball career

Mizell was a professional pitcher between 1949 and 1963. He took two years out to serve in the United States Army during 1953 and 1954. "Vinegar Bend" began his Major League Baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952, continuing through 1953, and then again (following military service) from 1956-60. Mizell was twice named an All-Star as a Cardinal, as he was named to both National League teams in 1959 (in those days, two All-Star games were played in a season). Mizell did not appear in either game.

In 1960 Mizell joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, playing with them through 1962. He won one championship with them. He also played with the expansion New York Mets in 1962 before retiring.

His trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 28, 1960 is considered one of the catalysts towards the Pirates championship run that season. Mizell went 13-5 for the Pirates that season, and finished sixth in the National League in winning percentage. Julian Javier, one of the players traded for Mizell, became a mainstay of the St. Louis Cardinals championship teams of the 1960s.

In a nine-season career, Mizell was 90-88 with a 3.85 ERA in 268 games, 230 of which were starts. He pitched 61 complete games, including 15 shutouts. He allowed 654 earned runs and struck out 918 in 1528 and 2/3 innings pitched. Mizell appeared in two World Series games in 1960 (Game 3 as a starter, Game 6 in relief), going 0-1 with a 15.43 ERA, with 2.1 innings pitched.

After leaving baseball, Mizell worked in sales and public relations for the Pepsi-Cola company in Winston-Salem until 1967.


Mizell entered North Carolina politics in the 1960s. He was elected to the Davidson County board of commissioners in 1966. He was the chairman of the board for the two years when he was a member.

In 1968, Mizell, a Republican, was elected to represent the 5th District in the 91st United States Congress. A previous Republican candidate, G. Fred Steele, Jr., had polled 46.9 percent of the vote in District 5 in 1966; Steele's showing helped prepare the district for a party transformation in 1968. Mizell defeated Democratic nominee Smith Bagley, an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company official, 84,905 (52.4 percent) to 77,112 (47.6 percent). The previous 5th District representative, Democrat Nick Galifianakis, was moved to the 4th District for the 1968 elections. Mizell was the first Republican to be elected in decades from the 5th District, which was based in Winston-Salem and included much of the northwestern part of the state. He was one of the most popular congressmen in Washington and one of the most conservative.

Mizell's 1972 Member of Congress license plate

In 1970, Mizell defeated Democrat James G. White, 68,937 (58.1 percent) to 49,663 (41.9 percent). In 1972, he trounced former liberal Arkansas Congressman Brooks Hays, who had moved to North Carolina, 101,375 (64.8 percent) to 54,986 (35.2 percent).

Mizell may have thought that his 1972 margin would insulate him from further Democratic challenges in 1974. The Watergate scandal affected Republican House members. Mizell was unseated by Democrat Stephen L. Neal, 64,634 (52 percent) to 59,182 (47.6 percent). In his 1974 defeat, Mizell polled less than three fifths of the total votes that he had received in 1972.

President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., a former House colleague, appointed Mizell as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Economic Development Administration, a post he held from March 1975 to May 1976.

In 1976, Mizell challenged Neal again and lost, 83,129 (45.6 percent) to 98,789 (54.2 percent). Neal, a strong supporter of the Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter, polled almost the same raw vote as Mizell had four years earlier, when he was running on the NixonAgnew slate.

In 1981, Mizell was appointed Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Governmental and Public Affairs in the Reagan administration. Later he was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs, in the George H. W. Bush administration. Mizell also worked as executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.


Birthplace marker and memorial to Mizell

After leaving government life, Mizell resided in Midway, North Carolina. He considered running for his old seat again in the 1990s, but decided against it.

In the fall of 1998, Mizell had a heart attack while watching his son Dave coach High Point Andrews High School in a football game against North Davidson High School in Welcome. Just before kickoff, rescue crews were called, and the game was postponed for about a half hour. Mizell was taken to the cardiac care unit of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He recovered for a few months.

Mizell died at the age of 68 in Kerrville, Texas, where he was visiting his wife's family. Mizell was survived by his two sons, Danny and Dave, who both live in North Carolina, and by four grandchildren.


External links

  • United States Congress. "Wilmer Mizell (id: M000833)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.[1]
  • Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
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