|Wilmer David Mizell|
August 13, 1930|
Vinegar Bend, Alabama
|Died: February 21, 1999
|April 22, 1952 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
Last MLB appearance
|July 25, 1962 for the New York Mets|
|Earned run average||3.85|
Career highlights and awards
|Wilmer David Mizell|
|Mizell during his time in Congress|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 5th district
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1975
|Preceded by||Nick Galifianakis|
|Succeeded by||Stephen L. Neal|
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Mizell(1st wife,died), Ruth Mizell|
Wilmer David "Vinegar Bend" Mizell (August 13, 1930 – February 21, 1999) was an American left-handed pitcher in major league baseball who went on to serve three terms as a Republican U.S. congressman from North Carolina between 1969 and 1975. He represented North Carolina's 5th congressional district, including Winston-Salem.
Mizell was born near Vinegar Bend, Alabama, the source of his nickname. He was reared in nearby Leakesville, Mississippi, where he graduated from high school in 1949. He was a professional pitcher between 1949 and 1963, although he served 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 then joined the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1960–1962, winning one championship, and spent time with the expansion New York Mets in 1962 before retiring.
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 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.
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 had an impact on 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 Economic Development, 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 Nixon--Agnew 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.
After leaving government life, he resided in Midway, North Carolina. He thought about 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 Mizell, 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 is survived by his two sons, Danny and Dave, who both live in North Carolina, and by four grandchildren.
- Wilmer Mizell at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
|United States House of Representatives|
Nick Galifianakis (D)
|United States Representative for North Carolina's 5th congressional district
Stephen Neal (D)